This is a good book, even though it is extremely derivative of One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is not just magical realism, it uses the history of a family to symbolize the history of a country, in this case Chile. Silly me, I had not realized that Isabel Allende was related to Salvadore Allende the former president of Chile until I had finished the book, but she draws on what is both the history of her family and the history of the nation to write what is really quite a good book.
I think that the book gets better as it goes along and that she finds a voice that is increasingly distinct from Garcia Marquez. I thought that it was superior to Midnight's Children which is also derivative of One Hundred Years of Solitude, even though Rushdie has a more distinctive voice.
Worth reading, especially for anyone who likes Garcia Marquez and wants something similar.