Inés Suárez is a heroine that will stick with me for a long time. At the book's opening, she estimates she's about seventy years old and is going to soon die. In the rambling way of someone working through their memories, distracted at times by side stories and the need to unburden her soul, Inés' story unfolds. Born to an ordinary Spanish family, she and her childhood lover are caught up in the adventures of the Americas and the untold riches any man can claim. She goes to join him after he leaves and finds herself caught up in the exploration and conquest of Chile, the last untamed regions of South America. She finds true love, comfortable love, witnesses the founding of a nation, and makes a ton of empanadas.I'm incredibly picky about my historical heroines sounding overly modern, especially if they're social rebels who are preternaturally gorgeous. In Allende's quite competent hands, Inés manages to be both stubborn, pig-headed, willful, pretty, and smart without sounding too perfect or too talented. As a narrator, she has the distance of an old woman looking back on what turned out to be a rather momentous life, and so she qualifies and annotates and even rambles and repeats herself. She's fascinating and charming, and I was immediately caught up in her story.This is an unusual era and setting for historical novels (if one doesn't read a lot of Allende) and so I recommend it to all historical fiction fans. If you're new to Allende, this is a fantastic starter novel -- great story, great narrator -- and the extras at the end provide a lovely introduction to Allende and her other works.