Portrait in Sepia

Portrait in Sepia

3.92 (24,553 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , Translated by 

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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.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 22mm | 199.58g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • HarperPerennial
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • genealogy tab
  • 0007123019
  • 9780007123018
  • 103,368

Review quote

'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 Tribuneshow more

Review Text

A new novel from Isabel Allende is always a cause of celebration for her many fans. Portrait in Sepia continues the story of characters from her previous novel, Daughter of Fortune. Eliza Sommers and the Chinese healer, Tao Chi'en are now living together with their two children in the Chinese quarter of late 19th-century San Francisco. This novel spans nearly 50 eventful years of history (from 1862 to 1910) and shifts location from San Francisco to Chile via spells in London and Europe. It is packed with ideas and history, taking in such diverse events as the bloody civil wars of Chile and advances in the development of photography and surgery. The story centres on Aurora del Valle who at the age of five, after the brutal death of her grandfather, Tao-Chi'en, is left with her Chilean paternal grandmother, the formidable entrepreneur, Paulina del Valle. Over the years, after an unorthodox upbringing in Chile, Aurora manages to piece together the mystery of her ancestry and to understand the source of her recurring nightmares. The novel is peppered with a host of fascinating characters, but most significantly it re-introduces Severo and Nivea del Valle, characters from her much-loved first novel, The House of Spirits. Although none of Allende's subsequent books have ever quite recaptured the special magic and originality of that first novel, she remains a consummate storyteller, her characters always engaging and her powers of description vivid. While it is not necessary to have read Daughter of Fortune to appreciate Portrait in Sepia, the latter certainly whets the appetite for a return to The House of Spirits. (Kirkus UK)show more

About Isabel Allende

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.show more

Rating details

24,553 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 27% (6,742)
4 43% (10,552)
3 25% (6,067)
2 4% (1,017)
1 1% (175)
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