marny_h96: (eatsleepread)
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Title: Portrait in Sepia
Author: Isabel Allende
Number of Pages: 304 pages
Book Number/Goal: 5/40
My Rating: 3/5

Review: In 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 back-tracks, 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 (Publisher's Weekly)

I've enjoyed The House of Spirits and the City of Beasts trilogy but this book was a disappointment. It seems to be a bit of 'filler' book. The story takes place between Daughter of Fortune and The House of Spirits but I had a hard time getting into it. It's written in what some have described as a 'leisurely' pace but I have to admit that for me it's just too slow.

I think the problem for me is that the main character is somewhat boring. In The House of Spirits, the characters are memorable and interesting, and I wanted to find out about their lives. Aurora, the central character in Portrait in Sepia, seems dull and uninspired. I was more interested in learning about her husband Diego than about her.

Recommended only if you like 'slow' books with lots of (sometimes unnecessary) descriptions or if you've read Daughter of Fortune and don't want to go straight to reading House of Spirits.

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