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Portrait in Sepia [Paperback]

Isabel Allende , Margaret Sayers Peden
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

1 April 2008

Best selling international author, Isabel Allende tackles her homeland head-on in this staggering, epic romance.

‘Portrait in Sepia’ is both a magnificent historical novel set at the end of the nineteenth century in Chile and a marvellous family saga peopled by characters from ‘Daughter of Fortune’ and ‘The House of the Spirits’, two of Allende's most celebrated novels.

As a young girl, Aurora del Valle suffered a brutal trauma that has shaped her character and erased 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, she grows up in a privileged environment, free of the limitations that circumscribe the lives of women at that time, but tormented by terrible nightmares. When she finds herself alone at the end of an unhappy love affair, she decides to explore the mystery of her past, to discover what it was, exactly, all those years ago, that had such a devastating effect on her young life.

Richly detailed, epic in scope, this engrossing story of the dark power of hidden secrets is intimate in its probing of human character, and thrilling in the way it illuminates the complexity of family ties.

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Portrait in Sepia + Daughter of Fortune + The House Of The Spirits
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (1 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007123019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007123018
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 165,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of nine novels, including Inès of My Soul, Daughter of Fortune, and Portrait in Sepia. She has also written a collection of stories, four memoirs, and a trilogy of children's novels. Her books have been translated into more than twenty-seven languages and have become bestsellers across four continents. In 2004 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Isabel Allende lives in California.

Product Description

Amazon Review

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.

The book's heroine is Aurora del Valle, who "came into the world one Tuesday in the autumn of 1880, in San Francisco". As Aurora sets out to retell her own history and that of her family, she admits "there are so many secrets in my family that I may never have time to unveil them all: truth is short-lived, watered down by torrents of rain". 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. Aurora's mother is a Chilean-Chinese beauty, whilst her father is a dissolute scion of the wealthy and powerful del Valle family. At the heart of Aurora's slow, painful recreation 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, bringing together the written word and the photograph as a way of holding onto the past: "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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘You’ll find it hard not to be beguiled by the charm and ingenuity of Allende’s storytelling.’ The Times

'Though its story is the life of Aurora del Valle, a privileged young girl growing up in 19th century Chile, its subject is history, and the way in which the lives of people and the lives of countries exist in uneasy limbo, caught between the shadows of the past and the mysteries of the future. It's a world of secrets and uneasy truces; all that is certain is death, and all that is valuable is love.' Jeremy Poolman, Daily Mail

'If you were thrilled by “The House of the Spirits”, you'll love this.' Marie Claire

'A wonderful, wide-ranging story, which moves back to Chile, and is told in a clever mix of first and third person. Allende's dramatic descriptions of hand-to-hand combat and bloody battle scenes are every bit as vivid and physical as her descriptions of wild passionate love-making. A compulsively readable, colourful, informative and entertaining novel.' Sunday Tribune

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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
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read 10 Aug 2002
By A Customer
What a wonderful book this is. It is difficult to imagine that this is a work of translation because it reads so fluidly. I have found this to be a captivating story, linking the worlds of North and South America during the 1800's. Not only am I reading about the convoluted relationships of this extended family, I am also learning about the history of South America in a completely unexpected way.
I would highly recommend this book as a genteel and beautifully written work.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely wonderful 16 Oct 2001
By A Customer
On the same line of the other books written by Isabel Allende, in this book she takes you through the lives of fascinating characters, seamless going from one storyline to another and intertwining them to create a central plot with her wonderful and unmistakable style. This book is a true pleasure to the senses. One of the best books I have read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An irresistible epic 17 July 2002
By A Customer
Having waited in anticipation for the publication of this book in paperback, it lived up to all expectations - a wonderful read.
I was overwhelmed by House of Spirits when it was first published and since then have eagerly read everything from this author ( high point - Eva Luna, low point - the Infinite Plan).
This book, incorporating characters from both House of Spirits and Daughter of Fortune, was irresistible. One of the greatest pleasures was casting new light on figures already familiar. Amusing,heartfelt,thoughtful, with insights into life in 19th century Chile and San Francisco's Chinatown, wonderful characterisation, an intriguing heroine in Aurora and an engrossing plot,this is another compelling masterpiece.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Exotic 13 July 2008
It took me a while to get into this book; there is a mass of family history to wade through at the beginning. After that things improved though I don't paticularly enjoy her style - long wordy sentances can become a bit tiresome after a while.

This is the story of Aurora (Lai Ming) de Valle, narrated initially by her "uncle" Severo del Valle and subsequently by herself. Her exotic ancestry includes Chinese, Chilean, and English and she starts her life in ChinaTown, Sanfransisco.
Her privileged life is haunted by memories from her childhood and she searches for the roots of these memories for many years. One event in particular causes her to have terrible nightmares but she has no idea what the cause of these is.
The book is full of colourful characters, especially her maternal grandfather Tao Chi'en and paternal grandmother Paulline del Valle (for whom I kept reading de Ville!)

This is my 4th Isabel Allende book and my favourite is still Paula, an autobiographcal account told to her dying daughter. It was so sad. Having read Paula though, House of Spirits made so much more sense, likewise Portrait in Sepia, both of which seemed rather far fetched until I knew a little about her background. Her real life has been full of such exotic, wacky characters.

An interesting, slightly slow read
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous tale 27 Nov 2011
A fabulous tale in its own right, following Aurora's life journey from North to South America and elsewhere, but also a very satisfying sequel to Daughter of Fortune - completing the saga of Eliza and Tao Chi'en. Compelling story-telling of the highest order, illuminating the human condition with all its strengths, frailties and emotional turbulence.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous read 10 Nov 2013
By Cairo
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Unbelievably well written, imaginative and informative. Spellbound by the characters and the events that unfold. .greedy for more food for the soul
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
Amazing book! Read it after you read the "daughter of fate" (no idea if that is the correct english title!!)
Published 14 months ago by E.V.SKENTERI
3.0 out of 5 stars Very cheesy but readable cheese
This is the kind of book for which you should read on a beach. Or at least, before you read it, approach it like a latin or an australian soap opera! Read more
Published on 14 Mar 2007 by The
2.0 out of 5 stars All talk and no black pyjama trousers
This was my first Isabelle Allende and I probably chose the wrong one. The only McGuffin driving the plot is Aurora's nightmare and frankly by the end I didn't care what the... Read more
Published on 11 Aug 2005 by Temudjin Oh
5.0 out of 5 stars another masterpiece
Yet another masterpece by Isabelle Allende.This book is full of passion & adventure & like The House of Spirits, I couldn't put it down.It's very beautifully written as always.
Published on 29 Feb 2004 by White Eagle
3.0 out of 5 stars Struggling in the wake of her other excellent books
For fans of Isabel Allende this will come as a disappointment. After the breath-taking, wide-ranging House of the Spirits, Portrait in Sepia just doesn't come up to scratch. Read more
Published on 29 Sep 2003 by "rich_charlotte"
4.0 out of 5 stars potboiiler/pageturner
"a potboiler but a page turner too" was how I describe dthe book in a text message to the person who had loaned it to me before i went on holiday. Read more
Published on 29 Sep 2003 by MR J D MCGONAGLE
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