Isabel Allende’s debut novel The House of Spirits is set to be made into a series on the streaming platform Hulu. Neither a release date or director has yet been announced to the public since the series was first announced a year ago. In any case, the series is a long overdue correction of the last Hollywood adaptation of the book — a feature-length film from 1994 that got the casting all wrong. At the time, the New York Times review of the film simply explained that the cast had “strange internationality” that amounted to an “odd Danish-Latin hybrid.” With Meryl Streep cast as Clara del Valle, the reviewer seemed to brush off the prospect of brownface as “a tall order for Ms. Streep, but she handles it with remarkable grace.” In any case, we’re ready for a Latinx cast and a series that cleaves closer to Allende’s narrative. This time, Allende is on board as an executive producer.
Her latest book Largo Pétalo de Mar is forthcoming as well, and should be published in early 2020. The title A Long Petal of the Sea is a line originally penned by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who described his home country as a “long petal of sea, wine, and snow.” The novel follows Victor Dalmau and Roser Bruguera as they are exiled from Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War. Emigrating to Chile as refugees on a boat chartered by Pablo Neruda, they must build up a new life in a foreign land while aching for home.
In November, the author was honored by the National Book Foundation with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. The award is given to writers whose work has made an exceptional impact on American literature. In her acceptance speech, Allende spoke of her perspective as a foreigner, as someone who is “chronically uprooted,” paying homage to the immigrant experience. She brought up the real story of the three-year-old Syrian boy who washed ashore after he and many of his family members died while fleeing their country, about the impact that his photo had made on the world — and how little time, relatively speaking, it took for people to forget about his story. “I write to preserve memory against the ocean of oblivion, and to bring people together,” explained Allende. “I believe in the power of stories. If we listen to another person’s story, if we tell our own story, we start to heal from division and hatred because we realize that the similarities that bring us together are many more than the distances that separate us.”