Review by Booklist Review
This is a sequel to the author's best-selling and critically applauded Daughter of Fortune (1999), but it falls a little short of attaining that novel's artistry and accessibility. But no book by Allende is anything less than enjoyable. Once again, she artfully and authentically evokes the nineteenth century in her native Chile and in California, her current residence. In Chile, it is a time of economic expansion as well as war. Chile is skirmishing with neighboring Peru and Bolivia and is also enmeshed in civil war. In California, these are the post-gold rush days, and San Francisco teems and thrives. The previous novel introduced readers to Eliza Sommers, who was adopted as a child by two residents of the British colony in the Chilean city of Valparaiso. Raised in privileged circumstances, Eliza nevertheless got pregnant and followed her lover to California. Now, in the sequel, Allende takes up the threads of the story to weave the tale of Aurora del Valle, Eliza's granddaughter. Aurora grew up unclear about certain major details of her life--for instance, the true identity of her father--but eventually the pieces she needs to know to understand her heritage fall into place. Although the plot is not as compelling as in the previous novel, Portrait in Sepia is still an atmospheric, character-rich historical yarn. --Brad Hooper
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
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. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Allende's new novel may center on Aurora de Valle, born in San Francisco's Chinatown and raised in Chile by her domineering grandmother, but it is really a group portrait of three generations of Aurora's family including her grandmother, Eliza Sommers, whom readers will remember from Daughter of Fortune. In fact, though Aurora's squalling birth opens the book, she doesn't figure prominently in the proceedings until about halfway through, when her grandmother gets custody of her and we learn of a trauma that will shape the rest of her life. Aurora is born to Lynn, daughter of Eliza and Chinese physician Tao Ch'en. A gorgeous but slightly dim girl, Lynn has fallen for the son of redoubtable Chilean matriarch Paulina de Valle and gotten herself pregnant. Much woe follows the birth of little Aurora, including the death of her mother and her mysterious kidnapping when she is only a few years old, and plenty of intrigue awaits her in Chile. The result is a polished, charming, if somewhat soap operaish tale that will please Allende fans. For most libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/01.] Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Complex, intriguing, ambitious, and uneven sequel to Oprah selection Daughter of Fortune (1999), continuing the story of Eliza Sommers, as told by her granddaughter, Aurora del Valle. Aurora fondly remembers her gentle grandmother and Chinese grandfather, Tao Chi'en, and doesn't understand why she was adopted at the tender age of five by her formidable Chilean grandmother Paulina, who ruled the del Valle family and fortune from an opulent Nob Hill mansion during San Francisco's Gilded Age. Aurora never knew her real father, Matias del Valle, a bisexual roue and opium addict who seduced and deflowered young Lynn, an artist's model, then abandoned her when he learned she was pregnant. Matias's cousin Severo, passionately in love with the naive and beautiful girl, interceded and married her. Grief-stricken when she died giving birth to Aurora, Severo provided handsomely for the little girl despite his aunt's desire to forget about it all. Mind you, scandal has besmirched the del Valle name before; Paulina's public revenge on philandering husband Feliciano was the talk of the robber-baron elite. No matter. Her greatest pleasures now are amassing money and devouring pastries. Bejeweled and bedecked in fussy Victorian finery, becoming ever more corpulent but no less vain, the grotesque old lady fascinates her spoiled granddaughter. They return to Chile, where Aurora is raised amid a host of relatives both wise and eccentric, although she learns little about the world beyond the conservative confines of Chilean society. Married off as fast as possible to the good-for-nothing scion of a distinguished South American family, Aurora takes up the then-new art of photography and copes with her husband's eventual betrayal and Paulina's slow death from cancer. Yes, she grows up at last-but she's nowhere near as interesting as her redoubtable grandmother. Though her narrative spans nearly 50 years of Chilean and American history, it's Allende's remarkable flair for character that makes it all come alive. Author tour
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