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Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende

Portrait in Sepia (2000)

by Isabel Allende

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3,351502,406 (3.69)109
Title:Portrait in Sepia
Authors:Isabel Allende
Info:Harper Collins Publishers (Paperback)
Collections:Your library

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Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende (2000)


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Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
In a meandering journey over decades and continents, the life of a family is explored, including all its unusual secrets and strained relations against diverse backdrops of war, racism, and illness.

This book was sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time, and I was looking forward to reading it when we chose Allende as the author for the Monthly Author Reads group. Unfortunately, it fell flat for me. I kept waiting for something happen, but the book never really seemed to pick up steam. It seems like Allende was working up to a big reveal at the end, except the reveal wasn't particularly surprising.

Allende obviously has talent, but this title at least was not particularly in my favorite writing style -- her sentences are lengthy, paragraphs go on for pages, and there aren't really chapter divisions. It felt very dense to get through and too much like "work" instead of enjoyment.

The characters were interesting and quirky, but sometimes felt a little one-dimensional. In addition, because the book kept jumping around in time (and small perspective shifts as well), it felt difficult to get a real handle on a character as they kept being reintroduced. I later found out this book is technically a sequel to one of Allende's other titles, so perhaps reading that first might have helped. However, I just don't think it was my cup of tea. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Dec 24, 2018 |
Allende weaves an intricate tale around the diverse cultures of Chile, America, China and England while also recounting a very personal story. ( )
  ElizabethCromb | Jun 30, 2018 |
I don't agree that this is her best book since THOTS. This was pleasant, but not great. It seemed a little rushed, like she didn't take the time to attend to details. The most glaring of these was what became of Ghengis Khan's wife? And how old was he? At first she indicated he was a man with grown children, but later it seemed he had undergone some sort of age regression and become much younger, for convenience's sake. I'm not sold on this story. ( )
  Lit_Cat | Dec 9, 2017 |
Audiobook narrated by Blair Brown

This is the third book Allende has written about the Del Valle family. Though it was the last published, in chronological order it falls between Daughter of Fortune and House of the Spirits, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. The sweeping scope of this book takes us from mid 19th-century San Francisco to early 20th century Chile, and is narrated by Aurora Del Valle, a fiercely independent woman who followed her own destiny regardless of convention.

I love Allende’s writing. There is a decidedly Latin beat to the flow of her sentences. And her descriptions are full of sensory highlights – the reader smells the sea air, feels the quality of fine fabrics, suffers in the tropical heat, hears the cacophony of a busy marketplace, and tastes the herbs and spices of Chinese or Chilean cuisine.

The characters are larger than life and run the gamut from a wealthy Chilean grand dame to a Chinese herbalist to an English butler and a Serbian physician. I greatly appreciated the family tree printed in the text version, and wished that I also had a map handy to help with the geography.

While she is known for magical realism, there is little of that in this book, aside from a reference to the ghost of Aurora’s grandfather being ever present. I think I need to go back to House of the Spirits and read it again….

Blair Brown does a fine job performing the audio version. She has good pacing and enough skill as a voice artist to clearly distinguish the many characters. ( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 12, 2017 |
Isabel Allende has a real talent for creating great characters and she is an excellent storyteller.. This novel has both. I especially liked Aurora 's grandmother Paulina del Valle and her butler turns husband Frederick Williams.
This novel is also a great description of San Francisco's Chinatown and also of Chilean life and history. It explores the inner workings of a young girl as she becomes a woman. Aurora is a likeable, relateable character and I enjoyed reading about her life. ( )
  Smits | May 2, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isabel Allendeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Juan, AnaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And that's why I have to go back
to so many places in the future,
there to find myself
and constantly examine myself
with no witness but the moon
and then whistle with joy,
ambling over rocks and clods of earth,
with no task but to live,
with no family but the road.

     --Pablo Neruda, End of the World (Wind)
For Carmen Balcells and Ramon Huidobro,
two lions born on the same day,
forever alive.
First words
I came into the world one Tuesday in the autumn of 1880, in San Francisco, in the home of my maternal grandparents.
My mother never takes a stitch with an unthreaded needle.
Nothing is free in this world. You would pay a very dear price for those trinkets.
… she believed that photography and painting are not competing arts but basically different: the painter interprets reality, and the camera captures it. In the former everything is fiction, while the second is the sum of the real plus the sensibility of the photographer.
In the anguish of identifying what was lacking in me, I devoted hours and hours to shooting self-portraits, some before a large mirror I had brought to my studio, others standing before the camera. I took hundreds of photographs; in some I am dressed, in some I’m naked; I examined myself from every angle, and the only thing I discovered was a crepuscular sadness.
Memory is fiction. We select the brightest and the darkest, ignoring what we are ashamed of, and so embroider the broad tapestry of our lives. 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.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060898488, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:11 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Aurora del Valle, raised in the privileged class of Chile by her overwhelming grandmother, is tormented by nightmares and half-memories of events that occurred when she was a child in San Francisco's Chinatown. When she becomes disillusioned with her marriage, Aurora sets out to rediscover her missing memories.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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