City of the Beasts

City of the Beasts

Paperback Flamingo

By (author) Isabel Allende

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  • Publisher: Flamingo
  • Format: Paperback | 416 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 190mm x 32mm | 259g
  • Publication date: 2 June 2003
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 000714637X
  • ISBN 13: 9780007146376
  • Sales rank: 56,585

Product description

An ecological romance with a pulsing heart, equal parts Rider Haggard and Chico Buarque - one of the world's greatest and most beloved storytellers broadens her style and reach with a Amazonian adventure story that will appeal to all ages. Fifteen-year-old Alexander Cold has the chance to take the trip of a lifetime. With his mother in hospital, too ill to look after him, Alex is sent out to his grandmother Kate - a fearless reporter with blue eyes 'as sharp as daggers' points'. Kate is about to embark on an expedition to the dangerous, remote world of the Amazon rainforest, but rather than change her plans, she simply takes Alex along with her. They set off with their team - including a local guide and his daughter Nadia, with her wild, curly hair and skin the colour of honey - in search of a fabled headhunting tribe and a legendary, marauding creature known to locals as the 'Beast', only to find out much, much more about the mysteries of the jungle and its inhabitants. In a novel rich in adventure, magic and spirit, internationally celebrated novelist Isabel Allende takes readers of all ages on a voyage of discovery and wonder, deep into the heart of the Amazon.

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Author information

Isabel Allende was born in 1942, and is the niece of Salvador Allende, who went on to become famous as the elected President of Chile deposed in a CIA-backed coup. She worked as a journalist, playwright and children's writer in Chile until 1974 and then in Venezuela until 1984. Her first novel for adults, 'The House of the Spirits', was published in Spanish in 1982, beginning life as a letter to her dying grandfather. It was an international sensation, and ever since all her books have been acclaimed and adored in numberless translations worldwide.

Review quote

Praise for Isabel Allende: 'A magical storyteller.' Daily Mail 'Allende's writing is so vivid we hear the sounds, see the bright birds, smell and even taste the soft fruit.' The Times 'A wonderful, seemingly effortless storyteller; you feel yourself sink into the folds of her narrative with an almost childlike certainty that you're going to hear a good story well told.' Irish Independent 'Her prose is rich and magical, her characters vivid. She mixes violence and horror, love and humour, with more than a touch of genius.' Mary Wesley

Editorial reviews

A moody American teen finds himself up the Amazon without a paddle in this aimlessly meandering and cliche-ridden fantasy. Alex's mother's struggle with cancer has forced him into the care of his grandmother, a writer for International Geographic magazine, which has mounted an expedition into the heart of the rainforest to observe the strange monsters known only as the Beasts. Predictably enough, the expedition team consists of a variety of types, including a beautiful doctor, a dashing guide and his mystical daughter Nadia, an egotistical anthropologist, a sinister Indian aide, and a number of expendable supernumeraries. After the requisite agonizing trip up the longest river in the world, Alex and Nadia are finally ushered by an ancient shaman into the Eye of the World. There they encounter the People of the Mist, a-surprise, surprise-pristine indigenous civilization, who have evolved a symbiotic relationship with their gods, the Beasts. The Beasts, it turns out, are gigantic sloths-leftovers from some prehistoric era that have by dint of their exceptionally slow metabolism and consequently long lives developed some intelligence and even rudimentary language. Alex and Nadia are rechristened for their totem animals (Jaguar and Eagle) and go on perilous spirit quests. The jacket blurb boasts that the novel is "teeming with magical realism"; leaving aside the question of whether magical realism can actually teem, this story, Allende's (Portrait in Sepia, 2001, etc.) first for children, does anything but. There are some fantastic touches, but most of what passes for magical realism seems introduced only for narrative convenience (such as Alex's sudden ability to transcend linguistic barriers by "listening with his heart"). Other potentially fantastic elements are drearily reduced by pseudo-scientific explanation to the realm of the mundane (such as the true nature of the Beasts). The narrative as a whole suffers from extraordinarily labored language: " 'Remember whom you're speaking to, you little twerp,' the writer calmly interrupted, seizing him firmly by the shirt and paralyzing him with the glare of her fearsome blue eyes." Whether this is the fault of the original writing or the translation from the Spanish is immaterial; this flaw, combined with the general pointlessness of the plot, makes this offering-all 416 pages of it-an excruciating experience. (Fiction. 10+) (Kirkus Reviews)