Penulis/Author: Isabel Allende (1999)
Penerbit/Publisher: Harper Perennial
Cetakan/Edition: Sunday-Star Times/Whitcoulls, Best Summer I
Daughter of Fortune is the story of a young woman, Eliza Sommers, who follows her destiny and heart to find her lover in California’s Gold Rush. It is spun within years of time from Valparaiso Chile to California being a state, from Eliza’s childhood until when she is mature and wiser.
Eliza was adopted and brought up by the Sommers family after Miss Rose found her inside a soap crate outside her brother’s office in Chile. Miss Rose took and raised Eliza as her own daughter, insisting her British discipline to the young girl. Eliza respects and loves Miss Rose who never fails to remind how she had saved her, but most of Eliza’s days and times are actually spent with Mama Fresia, a native Chilean woman who works as cook for the Sommers, who taught her to never forger her native Indian spirit.
Young Eliza falls in love with a low class and poor, but handsome lad Joaquin Andieta. She found out she’s pregnant with his child after Joaquin had set to find gold and to make a fortune in California, like everyone else. To prevent shame falls onto her family, Eliza decided to go to California, to find Joaquin and to ask him marry her.
It was Thao Chi’en who helped her get on board discreetly, it was also him who accompanies her journey til the end. Now and then Eliza, dressed as a man, will travel around mines with groups of miners trying to find her ‘elder brother’, but she always comes back to Thao Chi’en, the Chinese-origin pharmacist. In the beginning, he worked for her to deliver her safely to California. Then they become friends that encourage each other when the other one starting to lose hope. Then, they become mutual companions tested by days and trials.
Eliza's reason and motivation to find Joaquin eventually led her to a journey of a lifetime where she learns about herself inside. Her life would be so much different if she had stayed in Chile and aborted the pregnancy.
Daughter of Fortune is a novel rich of historical tales and cultural reference especially around the gold rush era. I almost believed that it was Thao Chi’en who brought acupuncture and herbal medicines to the fame, and it was Joaquin who inspired the character Zorro. Behind these two men, there’s Eliza Sommers.
Narratively long with a dedicated chapter each for all the main characters, Daughter of Fortune is a delightful read for romance readers who want something more intelligent, full of actions and saga, than simply the love and lust theme. My advice: be prepared for an ending that could make some readers, like me, scream in depression.