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ISABEL ALLENDE – PORTRAIT IN SEPIA

I should have PAID ATTENTION to the sepia part of the title of this book, as it’s emblematic. Published in 2001, the novel is a sequel-ish offering to Allende’s Daughter of Fortune. The plot follows the life of the granddaughter – Aurora del Valle.

There was hope early on that things might prove interesting but after a brief and passionate love affair with the opening chapters, all my dreams were dashed. The story after this just became a rambling, undeveloped family history. 

This causes us to ask questions – did Allende write this in a hurry under a deadline? Or was she just as bored with the subject matter as we were? The central character Aurora is terminally tedious and her Aunt Paulina only mildly more interesting (numerous descriptions of folds of fat and clothing can only hold the readers’ sway for so long, and do not great characterisation make) after this, it’s a case of “oh no here comes fat Paulina again”.

The only truly engaging characters are given little page time, such as the butler, Frederick Williams or the ravishin’ Lynn who dies in childbirth.

There is no doubt that Allende can write, but this tedious tome is unworthy of her attentions.    The book can be likened to a shabby, more boring relative to another more shining member of the family; namely her first spectacular work House of Spirits (1982) which I DO recommend.

RATING If you like the colour sepia and enjoy watching paint dry this is for you.

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