Isabel Allende: ‘This is not a hobby, this is your main purpose in life’

Our guest on this week’s episode of Bookshelfie, the Women’s Prize for Fiction podcast, is the extraordinary Isabel Allende. A sensational author, philanthropist and activist who has sold over 77 million copies, Isabel joins the podcast to share ruminations on gratitude, love and the itch to write. She lets us in on books that have served as manuals for her own writing, as well as the necessary work being done by her charity foundation. Isabel explores the state of the modern world for women, drawing on her wealth of experience. This engaged, critical and life affirming episode is not one to miss. Listen to it in full here

Isabelle’s latest novel The Wind Knows My Name is out now and available to purchase here

The Female Eunuch

A worldwide bestseller, translated into over twelve languages, The Female Eunuch is a landmark in the history of the women’s movement. Drawing…

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‘I read it at a very important moment in my life, I was beginning to work as a journalist in Chile. And I had had all this anger against the patriarchy, this feminist impulse, but I couldn’t articulate it, I couldn’t use it. I couldn’t bring it into action. And then I read this book. And I realized that there was an articulate language to express what I was feeling. And it was a language full of humor, irony, and intelligence. And I just adopted the book as a manual almost for my work.’

Memoirs of Hadrian

Framed as a letter from the Roman Emperor Hadrian to his successor, Marcus Aurelius, Marguerite Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian is translated from…

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‘This is an example of extraordinary, extraordinary historical fiction. When I read that book, I had a feeling of the research, which is not obvious in the book, it flows as part of the story. The reader never feels the obstacle of the research, the research is part of the narrative, is a part of life. I have written several historical novels and I always refer to that book thinking that’s the way I want [my work] to read. Like navigating in very calm waters.’

Enrique’s Journey

In this true story, journalist Sonia Nazario recounts the odyssey of a Honduran boy who braves unimaginable hardship and peril…

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‘Nobody wants to leave everything behind, everything that is dear and familiar, and go on a dangerous journey that might end in a place where you are received with hostility, if not aggression, and you are not welcome. You are never welcome. And the hardships of the trip and of the place where you will arrive are terrible. But they are less than the struggle to survive in the place you come from. So Sonia’s answer was: without solving the problems in the places of origin, people will get out and will desperately get out.’

Broken Open

Elizabeth Lesser shows how it is possible to deal with fearful change or a painful loss and be reborn, like…

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‘[Elizabeth Lesser] is a seeker. Since she was a child, she has been seeking for truth, for meaning. And this is reflected in everything she does in her life. in the way she is and the way she talks. So when in doubt, I go to that book. And I find there answers for things that are the questions of life. How do we want to live? What are we thankful for? What do we have to let go? What is the purpose of life? Why or why am I holding on to this grudge? Let’s see what Elizabeth has to say about that. So in a way, for me, it replaces religion, which I don’t have.’ 

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, published in 1985. It is set in a near-future…

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‘This dystopian world is a possible world. Because I work with women, very vulnerable women and women at risk, I know that everything that happens in the book has happened before to women, or will happen or is happening. It is so possible that it’s no longer a dystopian world, it’s a possible world. [Atwood] is a fabulous storyteller. So you become the women there in Gilead, you become the victim.’

To hear more about Isabel’s expansive career, listen to the full episode here. Make sure to  have a look through the Women’s Prize Podcast archives for more compelling book recommendations from inspiring women.

The Women's Prize Podcast

Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.