Travel by Book to South America with Isabel Allende’s “Eva Luna”

by | Feb 7, 2023

An aerial shot of Caracas, Venezuela, in South America, inspiration for Isabel Allende's Eva Luna

Last updated on February 9th, 2023

Featured image:  Allende says Eva Luna was inspired by her time in Venezuela / Photo by wirestock via Envato

The imagery, stories and history of South America

by Carolyn Ray, Editor, JourneyWoman

Our February book of the month, Eva Luna, is set in a fictional country in South America, written by Isabel Allende. Allende is a bestselling author who was born in Peru, grew up in Chile and has lived in other countries including Venezuela and the United States. Now 80, Allende —novelist, feminist, and philanthropist—is one of the most widely-read authors in the world, having sold more than 77 million books.

Published in 1987, Eva Luna features a diverse cast of characters including immigrants from many countries. Eva Luna is a poor child living in an unnamed country in South America orphaned at a young age and learns to rely on her wits and love of words and storytelling to survive.  Allende says it was inspired by her time living in Venezuela, and her friendship with a young artist named Elsa Morales.

“She told me her life. Many of the anecdotes in Eva Luna are from Elsa Morales’ life. I wanted to describe this exuberant country that I was falling in love with,” Allende says. The story resonates with the magical realism that is characteristic of much Latin American literature, but it also touches on themes of migration, and how people experience settling in a new country.

I recently read Allende’s latest bestseller, Violeta (which I couldn’t put down), and came to appreciate Allende’s special brand of feminism — profiling strong women as they encounter devastating disappointments, moments of poverty and prosperity, terrible losses and immense joys. Violeta was particularly poignant and relevant, as it is a letter written on the 100th anniversary of another pandemic, the Spanish Flu.  

Eva Luna Book Cover, based on a fictional country in South America

An article in Oprah Magazine shares Allende’s inspiration for her books: “Reflecting on her historic career, Allende identified the trait that all of her characters share: They’re prone to making interesting decisions—not necessarily good ones. “I’m not interested in people who have easy lives. They don’t make good characters of books,” Allende says.

The JourneyWoman Book Club travels the world, one read at a time. We choose books with themes of travel and migration, or with a strong sense of geographical place, and – while we don’t exclude works by male authors – we particularly seek out stories written by women.

In our book club selections, we aim for diversity in what we read and in who we read. It is important that we include both books crafted by travellers exploring other lands, and those written by authors born all around the world. We’ve read almost three dozen books together so far, and we’re examining our lists to find the gaps.

Click Here to Buy or Download "Eva Luna"

Buy on here
Buy on Amazon/Audiobooks here
Buy on Booksamillion here

You can help support our Book Club: When you purchase a book using the links on our site, JourneyWoman receives a small commission from the bookseller. This is one of you ways you can help us maintain our beautiful website and editorial content.  

About Author Isabel Allende

Chilean born in Peru, Isabel won worldwide acclaim in 1982 with the publication of her first novel, The House of the Spirits, which began as a letter to her dying grandfather. Since then, she has authored more than 26 bestselling and critically acclaimed books, including Violeta, Daughter of Fortune, Island Beneath the Sea, Paula, The Japanese Lover, A Long Petal of the Sea and her most recent memoir, The Soul of a Woman. Translated into more than 42 languages, Allende’s works entertain and educate readers by interweaving imaginative stories with significant historical events.

In addition to her work as a writer, Allende devotes much of her time to human rights causes. In 1996, following the death of her daughter Paula, she established a charitable foundation in her honour, which has awarded grants to more than 100 nonprofits worldwide, delivering life-changing care to hundreds of thousands of women and girls. More than 8 million have watched her TED Talks on leading a passionate life. She has received fifteen honorary doctorates, including one from Harvard University, was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, received the PEN Center Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Allende the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, and in 2018 she received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. She lives in California. Her website is

Author Isabel Allende surrounded by books

Isabel Allende/ From the author’s website

2023 Eval luna Feb book club

Book Club Discussion Questions

We may not get through all of these, but here are some thoughts to start our discussion!

  1. The book is set in an unnamed South American country.  Why do you think the author chose to fictionalise or disguise the location?
  2. Have you travelled in South America? Did anything about the book’s setting feel familiar? Why, or why not? 
  3. What was your favorite passage in the book and why?
  4. The story begins with an epigraph from A Thousand and One Tales of the Arabian Nights.  Is there any similarity between Scheherazade – the bride of the Arabian Nights who tells stories as a survival strategy – and the child Eva?
  5. Eva has a series of mother figures in her life, including Consuelo, her madrina, Elvira and La Señora. How do these women nurture her, or fail her?
  6. What did you make of the scene where the Soviet soldiers took Rolf and the other villagers to bury the bodies? Why do you think they did that?
  7. The book has a touch of magical realism, a fictional genre which combines realistic settings, characters and plot with elements of fantasy. Can you name an instance where a magical moment found its way into the story? How did this affect your reading of the book?
  8. Eva says “Writing was the best thing that had happened to me in all my life” (page 136). Do you have a skill or a pastime that has added meaning to your life?
  9. The author was the cousin (once removed) of Salvador Allende, the socialist president of Chile who was assassinated in 1973, when Allende was in her thirties. Do you think this political background is reflected in Eva Luna?
  10. The characters in the novel are complex, with both ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ displaying a mix of positive and negative characteristics. In which character did you notice this most strongly, and why?
  11. How did mountain life change Huberto? And how did he stay the same?
  12.  Why do you think Eva chose the man she did, in the end?
  13. Many of the book’s characters are immigrants, but they adapt to their new country in very diverse ways. What differences are there in how Rolf Carle and his uncle Rupert embrace their new country? How about Riad Halabí?
  14. “I had told myself so often it is a curse to be born a woman that I had some difficulty understanding Melesio’s struggle to become one” (page 188). Allende wrote this novel in the 1980s. Are her observations on gender relations still relevant today?
  15. When Eva turns her memories into stories (pages 224 and 263), the characters seem melodramatic even for the soap opera scripts she’s writing. In the context of the broader narrative, did her life story ring true, or seem implausible?
Click Here to Buy or Download "Eva Luna"

Buy on here
Buy on Amazon/Audiobooks here
Buy on Booksamillion here

You can help support our Book Club: When you purchase a book using the links on our site, JourneyWoman receives a small commission from the bookseller. This is one of you ways you can help us maintain our beautiful website and editorial content.  

Featured articles on South America

Your Imagination Can Take You Places

Now more than ever, we’re finding camaraderie and inspiration through novels. Join us each month as we discuss a different book, suggested by our community, about a faraway land.

A passionate traveller, Carolyn believes anything is possible when we follow our heart and trust our intuition. Raised in Florida, Carolyn loves all things Latin, margaritas, the ocean and music. She's a board member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) and the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA).


We always strive to use real photos from our own adventures, provided by the guest writer or from our personal travels. However, in some cases, due to photo quality, we must use stock photography. If you have any questions about the photography please let us know.

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