Friday Flashback Review: Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende
Friday, September 17, 2010
Aurora del Valle lives with her maternal grandparents until she is five years old. After her grandfather's death, she's taken to live with her paternal grandmother, an acute businesswoman in a world that is still unrelentingly ruled by men. This fierce woman, Paulina, has a soft spot in her heart for her only granddaughter and gives her the best of everything. But Aurora suffers from debilitating nightmares that no one can explain.
Even though this novel was written in first person, I felt as if I were watching the story unfold behind glass. I never got pulled into the story completely. I was never particularly interested in Aurora. I was more interested to see what scheme Paulina would come up with next in late-nineteenth century America and Chile. She was the only character who really came to life for me. I would love to read a book about her life. Anway, I was really just kind of ambivalent to the whole thing, to the point that it was even hard for me to write a summary. I guess I can say mainly that the point was to explain how important our roots are. Even though Aurora is safe and secure with Paulina, she doesn't have much of a connection to anyone else and she doesn't really know any other family. As she matures and eventually finds out more about her mother's family, she seems to come to a kind of peace. But all that wasn't really enough to keep me turning pages.
What I did really enjoy was Allende's language. She's a beautiful writer, even in a translated edition. These South American writers seem to have that down. They're making me want to practice my Spanish more and learn to read them in the original language! I can only imagine how much more impressive these books would be in the original Spanish.
Anyway, if you're looking for a book that's big on language but, to me anyway, a little weak on plot and characterization, this is an excellent choice.
Reviewed February 26, 2009
Read an excerpt.
Find Isabel Allende on her website and Facebook.
Buy Portrait in Sepia on
I have an affiliate relationship with IndieBound, Book Depository, and Better World Books and will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.