The life story of Isabel Allende - one of the world's favourite writers - is as exotic, passionate and inspiring as one of her novels.
'The biggest straitjacket is all the prejudices that we carry around, and all the fears. But what if we just surrender to the fear? There are things greater than fear. The great, wonderful quality of human beings is that we can overcome even absolute terror, and we do.'
Just three when her parents divorced, Isabel Allende was raised in her grandparents' home in Chile. She left school at 16 and married Miguel Frías at 19. She then juggled her work as a journalist, editor, advice columnist and television interviewer with looking after her two children.
When her uncle, the Chilean president Salvador Allende, was assassinated in 1973 in Pinochet's right-wing military coup, her life changed profoundly. It was too dangerous to stay in Chile, and she, her husband, and their two children fled to Venezuela. During her impoverished exile, she started writing The House of the Spirits. Based on her memories of her family and the political upheaval in her native country, it became an international bestseller and everything changed again.
'Paula', Allende's book written to her dying daughter, details the developments of her emotional life. 'My Invented Country' ties these experiences into a larger political and geographical framework, making her life at once exotic and comprehensible, its events at once historical and immediate.