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Portrait in Sepia CD [Audio CD]

Isabel Allende , Blair Brown
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 11 2001
Internationally celebrated novelist Isabel Allende has written a magnificent historical novel set at the end of the nineteenth century in Chile -- a marvelous family saga that takes up and continues the story begun in her highly acclaimed Daughter of Fortune.

Recounted in the voice of a young woman in search of her roots, Portrait in Sepia is a novel about memory and family secrets. Aurora del Valle suffers a brutal trauma that shapes her character and erases from her mind all recollection of the first five years of her life. Raised by her ambitious grandmother, the regal and commanding Paulina del Valle, Aurora grows up in a privileged environment, free of the limitations that circumscribe the lives of women at that time, but tormented by horrible nightmares. When she is forced to recognize her betrayal at the hands of the man she loves, and to cope with the resulting solitude, she decides to explore the mystery of her past.

Portrait in Sepia is an extraordinary achievement: richly detailed, epic in scope, intimate in its probing of human character, and thrilling in the way it illuminates the complexity of family ties.

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From Amazon

Isabel Allende has established herself as one of the most consummate of all modern storytellers, a reputation that is confirmed in her novel Portrait in Sepia. Allende offers a compelling saga of the turbulent history, lives, and loves of late 19th-century Chile, drawing on characters from her earlier novels, The House of Spirits and Daughter of Fortune.

In typical Allende fashion, Portrait in Sepia is crammed with love, desire, tragedy, and dark family secrets, all played out against the dramatic backdrop of revolutionary Chile. Our heroine Aurora del Valle's mother is a Chilean-Chinese beauty, while her father is a dissolute scion of the wealthy and powerful del Valle family. At the heart of Aurora's slow, painful re-creation of her childhood towers one of Allende's greatest fictional creations, the heroine's grandmother, Paulina del Valle. An "astute, bewigged Amazon with a gluttonous appetite," Paulina holds both the del Valle family and Allende's novel together as she presides over Aurora's adolescence in a haze of pastries, taffeta, and overweening love.

One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is Allende's decision to turn her heroine into a photographer: "through photography and the written word I try desperately to conquer the transitory nature of my existence, to trap moments before they evanesce, to untangle the confusion of my past." There is little confusion in Allende's elegantly crafted and hugely enjoyable novel. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

HIn this third work concerning the various and intertwining lives of members of a Chilean family, Allende uses the metaphor of photography as memory. "Each of us chooses the tone for telling his or her own story; I would like to choose the durable clarity of a platinum print, but nothing in my destiny possesses that luminosity. I live among diffuse shadings, veiled mysteries, uncertainties; the tone for telling my life is closer to that of a portrait in sepia," declares Aurora del Valle, protagonist of the tale. Here, Allende picks up where 1999's Daughter of Fortune left off, and, in the course of her chronicles, mentions personages who were realized in her 1987 masterpiece, House of the Spirits. Like her other novels, Portrait in Sepia spans nearly 50 years and covers wars, love affairs, births, weddings and funerals. Rich and complex, this international, turn-of-the-century saga does not disappoint. The book opens as 30-year-old Aurora remembers her own birth, in the Chinatown of 1880 San Francisco. She tells of those present: her maternal, Chilean-English grandmother, Eliza; her grandfather Tao (a Chinese medic); and her mother, Lynn, a beloved beauty who dies during Aurora's birth. Realizing she is getting ahead of herself, Aurora backtracks, inviting the reader to be patient and listen to the events surrounding her life, from 1862 to 1910. Through Aurora, Allende exercises her supreme storytelling abilities, of which strong, passionate characters are paramount. Most memorable is Aurora's paternal grandmother, Paulina del Valle, an enormous woman who eats pastries and runs her trading company with equally reckless abandon. Like Paulina, Allende attacks her subject with gusto, making this a grand installment in an already impressive repertoire. Major ad/promo; 7-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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I came into the world one Tuesday in the autumn of 1880, in San Francisco, in the home of my maternal grandparents. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
I loved the story in this book but I didn't care for the writing style. Isabel Allende is a former journalist and, like most journalists, she tells her stories rather than dramatizing them in scenes. There is very little dialogue in the book because of this, just Allende "telling" us the story of the del Valle family through the "voice" of her narrator, Aurora del Valle.
The book takes place in San Francisco's Chinatown, in Peru and mostly, in Chile, something I really enjoyed. The book actually begins before Aurora's birth, though it is Aurora who tells the story, many years later, from Chile. As in most of Allende's books, women dominate. Women are the strong figures, the ones who matter, the ones who take center stage. The men, for the most part, just seem to hover at the periphery. In PORTRAIT IN SEPIA, however, one man is very fully drawn...Aurora's maternal grandfather, Tao Chi'en, and he is a fascinating and likable figure.
PORTRAIT IN SEPIA encompasses a large cast of characters and is, in many ways, a family novel. Tao Chi'en and his wife, Eliza Sommers, who live in Chinatown, have a daughter, Lynn, a gorgeous woman who has an affair with Matias del Valle. When Lynn becomes pregnant, Matias, who doesn't have his sights set on fatherhood, leaves and Lynn dies in childbirth. Lynn's daughter, Aurora, is raised for a short time by Tao Chi'en and Eliza, but circumstances force Eliza to give Aurora to her paternal grandmother, Paulina del Valle.
Paulina del Valle is a larger-than-life character. She's rich, she's eccentric, she ostentatious, she's irreverent. She lives like a man at a time when it was greatly frowned upon for a woman to live like a man, but...Paulina lives like a man better than most men do.
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4.0 out of 5 stars memory and belief Dec 14 2003
By Mindy
I admit I haven't read a book by Allende that I haven't liked. And this story held all the tragedy and romance that I expect and love in her work.
My favorite character in this book was Nivea. I loved how she just knew. And the way she believed things. And the way she loved her husband.
But the best part of the story was the way love was always portrayed as something that one fights for, fights to keep. That commitment is renewed each day, that it can not be taken for granted. Love isn't easy. That's the message that I took from this book, and I very much agree with that sentiment. The best things are never easy.
Aurora's passion for photography was wonderful to read about, and I related to a lot of what she felt throughout her story. Every word of her story felt like it was a struggle for her to write, and I appreciated her words. I appreciated the way she spoke of writing as that which would make the story more real. "Memory is fiction" and this is why we write our stories this way.
I quite liked this story.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Show Don't Tell Sept. 4 2003
I really liked the story this book told but I didn't like the fact that Allende chose to tell all of it rather than dramatizing it in scenes.
I didn't dislike the protagonist, Aurora del Valle, but I found it difficult to like her and sympathize with her. I found her to be far too passive in many situations, something could have probably been remedied had Allende "shown" us the story rather than "told" us.
The character who "stole the book" was definitely Aurora's grandmother, Paulina del Valle. Paulina was a larger-than-life character who added a much-needed note of humor to an otherwise flat and unemotional book.
The lack of emotion in this book was something I didn't understand. There were plenty of places for Allende to write rich, dramatic set-pieces yet, for some reason, she chose not to do so, much to the detriment of her story.
Bottomline: I enjoyed reading "Portrait in Sepia" but I would have enjoyed it a lot more had Allende followed the storyteller's maxim of "show, don't tell." This book could have been superlative. As it is, it is just okay.
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I really enjoyed "Daughter of Fortune" and looked forward to reading this 2001 sequel. I wasn't disappointed. Ms. Allende is a fine storyteller. It must have been difficult for her to weave the important elements of the two books together but it all fell together flawlessly. Again, I was swept into the story, which starts out in San Francisco and moves back to Chile, where the saga or these characters first began. The historical detail and the setting of time and place fascinated me. And so did the development of the characters who sprung to life from the pages.
There's Aurora del Valle, the granddaughter of two very powerful women. One is the heroine of the prior book, a woman who followed one love to California but found another. And the other is the wealthy Paulina del Valle, a large woman whose business sense created a fortune for her family. Both are very different and both love their granddaughter, who gradually learns the depth of their love as well as the family secrets.
There's tragedy in this book as well as romance. There's war and peace. And there are lots of contrasts between the places that are so well drawn that I felt I was actually living there. There's also a resolution as we look forward to the future of the characters in 20th century. Hopefully, the author will continue the story. Recommended.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story... style little too journalistic at times
Once more, I plunged into an Isabel Allende book without hesitation. Allende is real master of story telling. Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2010 by Littérature sans frontières
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written tale
The story of Aurora and her ancestors is a great one. Isabel Allende divides the story between USA and South America, and there are great characters all the way through the book. Read more
Published on June 4 2004 by Louise
3.0 out of 5 stars My First Introduction To Ms. Allende!
This is the first time that I've read Ms. Allende and maybe due to the fact that I've not read any of her previous titles I did not have any expectations when beginning this story... Read more
Published on March 13 2004 by Kristi Ahlers
4.0 out of 5 stars Good and easy read
I found this book very enjoyable, it was an easy read and even if there are facts that aren't totally accurate (as another reviewer points out) this is a novel, not a history book,... Read more
Published on March 5 2004 by S. Echeverria
5.0 out of 5 stars Just great!
I loved this book because the plot takes place both in Latin America and the USA. Isabel Allende uses a great plot to tell San Francisco's history, and its relation to so many... Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but not exceptional
This book follows many of the characters Allende introduced in another novel, Daughter of Fortune. I actually liked this book a little better than Daughter of Fortune, because I... Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2004 by Nicole Bradshaw
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than most authors, but subpar for Allende...
I like Isabel Allende. And PORTRAIT IN SEPIA is a good story, well told, but sometimes I felt that Allende phoned this one it instead of really working on the characters. Read more
Published on Jan. 6 2004 by Terry Mathews
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment
What a piece of work this was! I was only able to tolerate about 20 pages at a time, and I didn't give up simply because it was a book by Isabel Allende. Read more
Published on Sept. 1 2003 by Leticia C Vasquez
4.0 out of 5 stars A good story
I can't tell you that this is an excellent book, but is a good book to learn something about how is the life in Latin America, are parts of the book that it doesn't have many... Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2003 by Jorge Frid
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