The acclaimed author also reveals which of her characters she'd like Anne Hathaway to play.

By Rosy Cordero
January 07, 2020 at 03:34 PM EST
© Lori Barra

The iconic Chilean author Isabel Allende will publish her latest novel, A Long Petal of the Sea, on Jan. 21. Ahead of the release of the decades-spanning epic, which tells the story of two young people who make Chile their new home in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Allende reflects on the books that influenced her life — and which of her own novels she’d like to see on the big screen.

The books I loved as a child

When I was very young, my favorite book was an illustrated collection of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales. Later I read all the classics for young adults, from Jules Verne to Mark Twain, and all of Agatha Christie’s novels.

The last book that made me laugh

There’s a very funny sex scene in City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s really hard to find any humor in sex, but the author managed to make me laugh like a lunatic when her young protagonist loses her virginity with the help of a veterinarian.

The last book that made me cry

I cry often with books, especially when animals are involved — for example, Lily and the Octopus, by Steven Rowley. It’s the story of a dying dachshund and her owner’s grief. I read it when my dog Olivia was mortally ill, so I related to the story profoundly. I reread it recently, and I cried again.

The books I’m embarrassed to admit that I love

I am never embarrassed by the books I love; I am delighted and grateful. I am embarrassed to finish books I hate, like extremely violent Scandinavian crime novels.

The book of mine I’d love to see made into a movie

Daughter of Fortune, with the main character played by Anne Hathaway or someone like her. The protagonist, Eliza Sommers… travels as a stowaway in a cargo ship from Chile to California during the Gold Rush of 1848. The history of this period is fascinating, and I would like to see it on the big screen.

The books by Latinx writers I have loved this year

Cantoras, by Carolina De Robertis, [and] Dominicana, by Angie Cruz.

If people could only read one of my books, they should read…

[My debut novel] The House of the Spirits, because those who read it usually get hooked and want to read other books of mine.

The books that inspired me to travel

War and Peace and Anna Karenina inspired me to visit Moscow, which I imagined covered in snow. I visited it for a gorgeous summer week with a special invitation from the San Francisco composer and philanthropist Gordon Getty. We were hosted by the Russian National Orchestra and got to see some beautiful imperial palaces not often open to tourists. It was easy to imagine the characters from those books attending balls and concerts in those immense gilded rooms.

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