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Book 68 Completed

November 9, 2010

Yes! I know!

I read nearly 100 pages at school yesterday (and wrote a blog, AND made a Happy Birthday banner for Elliott’s birthday by “upcycling” a Sesame Street book he tore apart — although, I did utilize my TA for cutting out the letters; so, that was a team effort); and before you judge how any of those things can happen in a classroom with an effective teacher, I will tell you that my kids had really insightful conversations today about their short stories too. So, giving them AND me reading time was a win-win.

That left only sixty pages to finish today…

And ta-da! A 48 hour turn-around for Chile. Now with Reading Wednesday with choice books in effect for tomorrow, I’m nearly over the moon with joy about how this week’s reading plan is shaping up. I can start Argentina and get a good head-start into my week. If I can be in Uruguay by the weekend, then I’ll have all sorts of renewed confidence.

So, I’m no longer an Allende virgin. Portrait in Sepia was a good introduction to her work — I found the prose very beautiful and the characters brilliantly imagined. Apparently, some of these characters are the same as in her book Daughter of Fortune; so fans of that book already have background into their lives — where as I felt a little cheated at times that I wasn’t getting more from this character or that character — and perhaps the fault with that is because those stories were already told elsewhere. (As a matter of fact, I just looked it up. The ONE character whose story I felt I wanted to know more about is the main character in that book. So, I guess I know which Allende book will be next for me!)

The history of Chile, so carefully imbedded into the plot, was also really interesting. And Chile itself evolved as its own character; I’m always partial to stories that have a real sense of time and place — this book did that.

And all-in-all the book kept my attention. But I wasn’t in love with the style of the story — covering three years with one paragraph and the “then we did this and then this happened and then this happened” without much natural unraveling of plot or action caused the book to drag in places where it could have been really riveting. It’s been a complaint I’ve made numerous times throughout this journey; so that’s just my own bias and perhaps I’m expecting too much in that regard. How else could she have told this sprawling saga in 300 pages without sacrificing pace and depth? You make choices as an author and ultimately I’m sure Allende made the right choice for the book she wanted to tell.

It’s just that I think she sacrificed a real voice for her character of Aurora by writing the book in first person, but with such a sense of removal from the action. Have you ever had a friend that had a super interesting past, but he/she just didn’t have the right amount energy to tell people about it in a way that kept them rapt with attention? That’s how Aurora felt to me. She even offers a disclaimer in the epilogue by saying, “Each of us chooses the tone for telling his or her own story; I would like to choose the durable clarity of a platinum print, but nothing in my destiny possesses that luminosity. I live among diffuse shadings, veiled mysteries, uncertainties; the tone for telilng my life is closer to that of a portrait in sepia.” Yes. Exactly.

That doesn’t mean that Allende’s writing isn’t well polished or fraught with amazing images — she can write. And I’ll be reading her again the future. I think Portrait in Sepia was a good introduction and I’ll look forward to falling in love with one of her books soon.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Toni permalink
    November 10, 2010 4:27 pm

    oooh, I didn’t realize Portrait in Sepia had some characters from Daughter of Fortune. I have that book, if you want to swap sometime. (post-challenge, I assume)

  2. November 10, 2010 8:41 pm

    I just finished this book too! 🙂 And I agree with you when you said “But I wasn’t in love with the style of the story — covering three years with one paragraph”. I felt exactly the same way especially toward the end, in the last part about Eliza Sommers life. But maybe it is because her life is told in another book as you say. I have not read Daughter of Fortune but I know I will soon!

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