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Portrait in Sepia    by Isabel Allende order for
Portrait in Sepia
by Isabel Allende
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Aurora Del Valle lives her life in fear of unexplainable nightmares that have plagued her since childhood. Her story takes place in San Francisco in the late 1800s and continues into Santiago, Chile at the turn of the century. Some characters from Allende's Daughter of Fortune are reintroduced in Portrait in Sepia.

Allende's method of storytelling goes against what all teachers of writing expound: show, don't tell. Allende tells almost all of her book, and tells it very well. She strings telling words together and comes up with a masterpiece. The background of San Francisco is fascinating - sometimes horrifying. The treatment of the tiny Singsong Girls is beyond description. But Allende manages.

The war between Bolivia and Peru against Chile is the same story of every war, but it seems more personal and real when Allende tells it. The battle for women's suffrage was fought in Chile by very brave women in a country which didn't consider a woman intelligent enough to educate, let alone to be given the vote.

This is a wonderful book, quietly written in a manner that will stay with the reader long after it is finished. Though any of Allende's ten books is well worth reading, I feel Portrait in Sepia is the best of the best.

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