This month, for ARC, I am reviewing "A Portrait in Sepia" by Isabel Allende
I was a bit nervous starting this book, as it was a gift from a dear friend who thought it sounded like the kind of book I would enjoy. What if I didn't like it? How would I word the review without offending someone I love?
It is an historical novel set between 1862 and 1910, and is written as a memoir of Aurora Del Valle, an independent young women living in Chile.
The book is written in three parts...
Part 1 covers the years before her birth, and is written in quite a confused manner(for which Aurora apologizes at the beginning). I struggled with this section until I realised that the format was more that of the kind of conversation you overhear at a large family gathering, where everyone is adding to the stories, no one person ever having all the pertinent information. At certain points the story get's passed to Aunty so-and-so and then to uncle whatsit and so on. We get details and information through the eyes of each character, some only brief mentions, others seeming much more relevant. I could see how this section would be quite frustrating for some, but being a keen genealogist it is how I see my ancestral past, little snippets and delicacies of information, that later prove a clue to the next important link.
Part 2 covers Aurora's childhood and events in the world that effect her upbringing. The story again jumps in and out of other people's lives, but in a more organized way, as more information is readily available through her own observations.
Part 3 is written in what I consider a more conventional style and pulls all the facts and loose ends together beautifully.
Underlying the "memoir" is a fabulous "shout out" to the strength and character of the women of Chile during the building of a great nation. It is not coloured by feminism, but instead shows us the formidable patience of women working "behind the scenes" in the shadow of their husbands. It is also filled with the most wonderful stories of love and devotion (and several beautifully written scenes of a sexual nature). This is in no way a classic "Mills and Boons" type romantic novel...the emotions evoked are much deeper(I cried 4 times).
All in all I have to thank Magaly for gifting me this book....I found so many moments within it's pages that reflected things in my own life, not least my desire to keep memories alive for my children and their children, and their children's children. And I hope to live in their memories as vividly as Aurora's amazing ancestors are now engraved in mine.
My art piece is a 20"x20" stretch canvas, painted in the style of a Victorian family portrait with muted and faded colours. Battered and faded, it shows tantalising glimpses of Aurora's history :D
Enjoy :D XXX