Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rosie's Riveters: Beth & Eliza Somers

Rosie's Riveters is a weekly posting written by Booklust readers about riveting females in literature. Many readers have strong reactions to the women in the books they read- either very positive or very negative. These are the characters we find riveting, for good reasons or bad ones, and they form the population of Rosie's Riveters. Through this weekly post, we can discuss females we love to hate, or love to love. And maybe, just maybe- we can determine why we react so strongly to them.

If you are interested in participating, please comment on this post or e-mail me and I'll add you to the line-up! You can also just fill out the template and send it along and I'll save it until it's time to post.

This week's post is by Beth G., who had the good fortune to be my freshman year college roommate down in Champaign, IL. We bonded, lost touch, and then serendipitously saw each other on the train commuting to work one morning last summer. And now, we hang out all the time, swapping books and going on cultural outings. She insists she reads books that do not fall in the general BookLust sphere, but she's vociferously read every book I've lent her, and those have
all been reviewed here!

Who is your Riveter?
Eliza Sommers.

What book does she feature in?
She is essentially the main character in Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune, which is set in gold-rush era Chile and California. It follows the life of Eliza from her childhood. And it’s not really the usual type of book for this blog, but a wonderful book nonetheless.

Do you love her or hate her?

Love her.

Describe her personality- how would you describe her to a friend?

Eliza is one dedicated woman. She is strong-willed, although not always for the best reasons. She is able to adapt to even the most extreme situations and somehow come out on top.

Can you compare her to a celebrity?
Bah. Nope.

What makes her riveting?

Eliza is raised in a British (in Chile) privileged household, abandoned as an orphan at birth. Then, because it’s an Allende novel, she falls in love with a tragic figure who of course runs away to seek his fortune. She travels to California after him. Alone. In the hold of a ship that she snuck onto. While secretly pregnant.

If that’s not riveting enough for you, she then proceeds to tramp around the Pacific coast of the US, disguising herself as both a Chinese and Chilean boy, to look for the guy. She joins up with a traveling brothel (not as a lady), saves some child prostitutes, and ends up with her best friend, who is a Chinese man. Which is totally cool since it is the mid 1800s and clearly interracial relationships are not exactly looked highly upon.

What do you most admire/despise about her?
Her ability to become a chameleon of sorts. She has to adopt disguises while traveling around California, because she is a woman, and she is able to fit in wherever she happens to be. She is amazingly adaptive, and even though she grew up privileged she manages to thrive in the “wild west.”

Although some (ok, most) people might be irritated by the fact that she is so determined to find her lost love and that at some point she doesn’t even remember what he looks like or why she is even trying to find him anymore, I am personally very intrigued by her sense of devotion and her need for closure. Plus, she comes to her senses eventually.

Would you recommend reading the book in which the Riveter features?

Yes, it is a fabulous book.

I love all of Allende’s books, and this is not necessarily my favorite. She writes such complex stories with SO many characters, however, that not many of the characters have made such an impression on me as Eliza has. Daughter of Fortune contains several other riveting characters as well.

Do you have a quote by or about your Riveter that you'd like to share?

In letter she writes to her friend, she says,

“Here men are proud, with no one above them but the sky overhead; they bow to no one because they are inventing equality. And I want to be one of them…After knowing them I can never again be the lady Miss Rose intended me to be.”

Love it.


  1. She sounds like an Allende character :) Very good, I read a great book by her but never finished the third or second. And this one sounds great

  2. Love this! That is definitely one book I need to re-read. That and Portrait in Sepia.


  3. She sounds like a fascinating character! I think maybe her chasing after True Love was the excuse she gave herself to free herself from societal restraints. Although once I've actually read the book, that may not be true. ;)

    Love Allende's books. I must be "saving" this one.

  4. Carrie, what a great insight! I would say Allende might have well been doing that with her character.

    Also, it doesn't surprise me that a lot of Allende fans haven't read this one - it was an Oprah's Book Club choice and that seemed to turn a lot of people off it. But it's still good, even if Oprah totally commercialized it :)

  5. I love Isabel Allende's books! I must reread them someday!

  6. Good choice for a riveter! I did like these books, one of them more than the other though.

  7. I have never read a book by Isabel Allende, although I think I have this one on my shelf. I think I will have to read this soon, she does indeed sound like a riveter. Great post!


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