Retrato en sepia (Portrait in Sepia)

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Overview

A finales del siglo XIX en Chile, Aurora del Valle sufre de un trauma brutal que borra de su mente los primeros cinco años de su vida. Criada por su ambiciosa abuela, Paulina del Valle, crece en un ambiente privilegiado, pero se ve atormentada por horribles pesadillas. Cuando debe afrontar la traición del hombre que ama, y la soledad, decide explorar el misterio de su pasado.

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Retrato en sepia

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Overview

A finales del siglo XIX en Chile, Aurora del Valle sufre de un trauma brutal que borra de su mente los primeros cinco años de su vida. Criada por su ambiciosa abuela, Paulina del Valle, crece en un ambiente privilegiado, pero se ve atormentada por horribles pesadillas. Cuando debe afrontar la traición del hombre que ama, y la soledad, decide explorar el misterio de su pasado.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060936358
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/22/2002
  • Language: Spanish
  • Edition description: Spanish-language Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 681,777
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Isabel Allende is the bestselling author of twelve works of fiction, four memoirs, and three young-adult novels, which have been translated into more than thirty-five languages with sales in excess of fifty-seven million copies. She is the author most recently of the bestsellers Maya's Notebook, Island Beneath the Sea, Inés of My Soul, Portrait in Sepia, and Daughter of Fortune. In 2004 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She received the Hans Christian Andersen Literary Award in 2012. Born in Peru and raised in Chile, she lives in California.

Biography

In Isabel Allende's books, human beings do not exist merely in the three-dimensional sense. They can exert themselves as memory, as destiny, as spirits without form, as fairy tales. Just as the more mystical elements of Allende's past have shaped her work, so has the hard-bitten reality. Working as a journalist in Chile, Allende was forced to flee the country with her family after her uncle, President Salvador Allende, was killed in a coup in 1973.

Out of letters to family back in Chile came the manuscript that was to become Allende's first novel. Her arrival on the publishing scene in 1985 with The House of the Spirits was instantly recognized as a literary event. The New York Times called it "a unique achievement, both personal witness and possible allegory of the past, present and future of Latin America."

To read a book by Allende is to believe in (or be persuaded of) the power of transcendence, spiritual and otherwise. Her characters are often what she calls "marginal," those who strive to live on the fringes of society. It may be someone like Of Love and Shadows 's Hipolito Ranquileo, who makes his living as a circus clown; or Eva Luna, a poor orphan who is the center of two Allende books (Eva Luna and The Stories of Eva Luna).

Allende's characters have in common an inner fortitude that proves stronger than their adversity, and a sense of lineage that propels them both forward and backward. When you meet a central character in an Allende novel, be prepared to meet a few generations of his or her family. This multigenerational thread drives The House of the Spirits, the tale of the South American Trueba family. Not only did the novel draw Allende critical accolades (with such breathless raves as "spectacular," "astonishing" and "mesmerizing" from major reviewers), it landed her firmly in the magic realist tradition of predecessor (and acknowledged influence) Gabriel García Márquez. Some of its characters also reappeared in the historical novels Portrait in Sepia and Daughter of Fortune.

"It's strange that my work has been classified as magic realism," Allende has said, "because I see my novels as just being realistic literature." Indeed, much of what might be considered "magic" to others is real to Allende, who based the character Clara del Valle in The House of the Spirits on her own reputedly clairvoyant grandmother. And she has drawn as well upon the political violence that visited her life: Of Love and Shadows (1987) centers on a political crime in Chile, and other Allende books allude to the ideological divisions that affected the author so critically.

But all of her other work was "rehearsal," says Allende, for what she considers her most difficult and personal book. Paula is written for Allende's daughter, who died in 1992 after several months in a coma. Like Allende's fiction, it tells Paula's story through that of Allende's own and of her relatives. Allende again departed from fiction in Aphrodite, a book that pays homage to the romantic powers of food (complete with recipes for two such as "Reconciliation Soup"). The book's lighthearted subject matter had to have been a necessity for Allende, who could not write for nearly three years after the draining experience of writing Paula.

Whichever side of reality she is on, Allende's voice is unfailingly romantic and life-affirming, creating mystery even as she uncloaks it. Like a character in Of Love and Shadows, Allende tells "stories of her own invention whose aim [is] to ease suffering and make time pass more quickly," and she succeeds.

Good To Know

Allende has said that the character of Gregory Reeves in The Infinite Plan is based on her husband, Willie Gordon.

Allende begins all of her books on January 8, which she considers lucky because it was the day she began writing a letter to her dying grandfather that later became The House of the Spirits.

She began her career as a journalist, editing the magazine Paula and later contributing to the Venezuelan paper El Nacional.

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Read an Excerpt

Primera Parte

1862-1880

Vine al mundo un martes de otoño de 1880, bajo el techo de mis abuelos maternos, en San Francisco. Mientras dentro de esa, laberíintica casa demadera jadeaba mi madre montaña arriba con el corazón valiente ylos huesos desesperados para abrirme una salida, en la calle bullía, lavída salvaje del barrio chino con su aroma indeleble a cocinería, exótica, su torrente estrepitoso de dialectos vociferados, su muchedumbre inagotable de abejas humanas yendo y viniendo deprisa. Nací de madrugada, pero en Chinatown los relojes no obedecen reglas y a esa hora empieza el mercado, el tráfico de carretones y los ladridos tristes de los perros en sus jaulas esperando el cuchillo del cocinero. He venido a saber los detalles de mi nacimiento bastante tarde en la vida, pero peor sería, no haberlos descubierto nunca; podrían haberse extraviado, para siempre en los vericuetos del olvido. Hay tantos secretos en mi familia, que tal vez no me alcance el tiempo para despejarlos todos: la verdad es fugaz, lavada por torrentes de Iluvia. Mis abuelos maternos me recibieron conmovidos — a pesar de que según varios testigos fui un bebé horroroso — y me pusieron sobre el pecho de mi madre, donde permanecí acurrucada por unos minutos, los úinicos que alcancé a estar con ella. Después mi tío Lucky me echó su aliento en la cara para traspasarme su buena suerte. La intención fue generosa y el método infalible, pues al menos durante estos primeros treinta años de mi existencia, me haido bien. Pero, cuidado, no debo adelantarme. Esta historia es larga y comienza mucho antes de mi nacimiento; se requiere paciencia para contarla y más paciencia aún para escucharla. Si por el camino se pierde el hilo, no hay que desesperar, porque con toda seguridad se recupera unas páginas más adelante. Como en alguna fecha debemos comenzar, hagámoslo en 1862 y digamos, al azar, que la historia empieza con un mueble de proporciones inverosímiles.

La cama de Paulina del Valle fue encargada a Florencia, un año después de la coronación de Víctor Emanuel, cuando en el nuevo Reino de Italia aún vibraba el eco de la balas de Garibaldi; cruzó el mar desarmada en un transatlántico genovés, desembarcó en Nueva York en medio de una huelga sangrienta y fue trasladada a uno de los vapores de la compañía naviera de mis abuelos paternos, los Rodríguez de Santa Cruz, chilenos residentes en los Estados Unidos. Al capitán John Sommers le tocó recibir los cajones marcados en italiano con una sola palabra: náyades. Ese robusto marino inglés, del cual sólo queda un desteñido retrato y un baúl de cuero muy gastado por infinitas travesías marítimas y lleno de curiosos manuscritos, era mi bisabuelo, como averigüé hace poco, cuando mi pasado comenzó por fin a aclararse, después de muchos años de misterio. No conocí al capitán John Sommers, padre de Eliza Sommers, mi abuela materna, pero de él heredé cierta vocación de vagabunda. Sobre ese hombre de mar, puro horizonte y sal, cayó la tarea de conducir la cama florentina en la cala de su buque hasta el otro lado del continente americano. Debió sortear el bloqueo yanqui y los ataques de los confederados, alcanzar los limites australes del Atlántico, cruzar las aguas traicioneras del estrecho de Magallanes, entrar al océano Pacífico y después de detenerse brevemente en varios puertos sudamericanos, dirigir la proa hacia el norte de California, la antigua tierra del oro. Tenía órdenes precisas de abrir las cajas en el muelle de San Francis-co, supervisar al carpintero de a bordo mientras éste ensamblaba las partes como un rompecabezas, cuidando de no mellar los tallados, colocar encima el colchón y el cobertor de brocado color rubí, montar el armatoste en una carreta y mandarlo a paso lento al centro de la ciudad. El cochero debía dar dos vueltas a la Plaza de la Unión y otras dos tocando una campanilla frente al balcón de la concubina de mi abuelo, antes de dejarlo en su destino final, la casa de Paulina del Valle. Debía realizar esta hazaña en plena Guerra Civil, cuando los ejércitos yanquis y los confederados se masacraban en el sur del país y nadie estaba en ánimo de bromas ni de campanitas. John Sommers impartió las instrucciones maldiciendo, porque en los meses de navegación esa cama lIegó a simbolizar lo que más detestaba de su trabajo: los caprichos de su patrona, Paulina del Valle. Al ver la cama sobre la carreta dio un suspiro y decidió que sería lo último que haría por ella; Ilevaba doce años a sus órdenes y había alcanzado el límite de su paciencia. El mueble aún existe intacto, es un pesado dinosaurio de madera policromada; a la cabecera preside el dios Neptuno rodeado de olas espumantes y criaturas submarinas en bajo relieve, mientras a los pies juegan delfines y sirenas. En pocas horas media ciudad de San Francisco pudo apreciar aquel lecho olímpico; pero la querida de mi abuelo, a quien el espectáculo estaba dedicado, se escondió mientras la carreta pasaba y volvía a pasar con su campanilleo.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2001

    Aurora's search for her identity.

    This is the eloquent family saga of a pantheon of eclectic characters brought together by Aurora de Valle¿s search for her enigmatic past. Aurora was born in San Francisco under the protection of her maternal grand-parents, an unconventional marriage between a Chinese doctor, Tao Chi¿en and an English women, Eliza Sommers. However she is brought up in Chile by her business-savvy matriarchal paternal grand-mother Paulina del Valle. Liberated from social norms usually restricting young girls in the stifling Chilean aristocracy Aurora dedicates herself to photography to capture ¿moments of truth.¿ The historical setting is the latter part of nineteenth century Chile as explained by Allende in a recent press conference because, ¿I believe it is a period when the Chilean character was truly formed.¿ Chile¿s brutal expansionism into neighbouring countries and bloody revolution, including stark insights into rudimentary medical practices provide the backdrop. This contrasts with the more socially light-hearted San Francisco especially the Chinese community, the stigmas confronting these early immigrants and the sad plight of the trade in young prostitutes euphemistically know as ¿sing-song¿ girls. As with other Allende books, strong female characters push back the frontiers of convention, such as Nivea del Valle who as the author describes, ¿is capable to give birth to fifteen children and still continue fighting for women¿s rights¿. Historical fact and chronological order dominate over magical realism to provide afascinating tale of the varying kinds of love and a search for one¿s identity to establish a sense of belonging in the world. An excellent read, convincingly weaving together diverse social themes that doesn¿t miss a beat.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2008

    SE PUEDE DECIR QUE ES LA CONTINUACION DE LA HIJA DE LA FORTUNA

    UN BUEN LIBRO QUE HABLA DE LA PERIPECIES DE UNA JOVEN ENCANTADORA EN BUSCA DE SUS RAICES Y EL AMOR.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2001

    COULD NOT PUT THE BOOK DOWN, CAPTIVATING STORY

    Isabel Allende tells such beautiful stories, so richly detailed and with so many interesting personalities given to the characters. The book is so absorbing, you feel you have become part of the del Valle trama. It was sad when the book came to an end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2009

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