Portrait in Sepia CD Audio CD – Nov 2001
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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 the Paperback edition.
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 the Paperback edition. See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Portrait in Sepia (2000) tells the story of Aurora del Valle, the granddaughter of Eliza Sommers, the main character of another Allende's novel Daughter of Fortune, published in 1999. The characters of Portrait in Sepia are themselves the ancestors of those of The House of the Spirits, published in 1982. As such, Daughter of Fortune, Portrait in Sepia and The House of the Spirits form a trilogy.
I won't reveal the story and will leave you to discover it. All I will say is that it is a biographical novel with a historical background (the American civil war and the War of the Pacific in which Chile fought against both Peru and Bolivia). The events take place in the United States of America, Chile and Europe between 1862 and 1910.
If I have to pinpoint a negative aspect of the novel, it would be the tendency the author has in switching to a journalistic style at times especially toward the end. Few years and sometimes decades of some characters's life are told in very few pages.
Portrait in Sepia is not what I would call a "quotation novel", a novel that forces you to stop at every paragraph to take notes of some well-crafted sentences but it does not nonetheless lack richness nor deepness.
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.Read more ›
Although there were some slow parts I enjoyed the history of these two families but in the same breath found it at times difficult to follow the many different characters that were introduced. Still it was nice to be given a chance to know the various characters that make up this story and as a result given a chance to know the families.
I look forward to reading Ms. Allende again in the future and recommend this book as a nice way to pass the weekend.
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on Jan. 9 2004 by Nicole Bradshaw
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 morePublished on Jan. 6 2004 by Terry Mathews
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. Read morePublished on Dec 14 2003 by Mindy
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. Read morePublished on Sept. 4 2003 by Emma Kate
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 morePublished on Sept. 1 2003 by Leticia C Vasquez
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 morePublished on Aug. 5 2003 by Jorge Frid
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