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   Book Info

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Author: Isabel Allende
ISBN: 0060927208
Format: Handover
Publish Date: June, 2005
   Book Review

"Listen, Paula. I am going to tell you a story so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost." So says Chilean writer Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits) in the opening lines of the luminous, heart-rending memoir she wrote while her 28-year-old daughter Paula lay in a coma. In its pages, she ushers an assortment of outrageous relatives into the light: her stepfather, an amiable liar and tireless debater; grandmother Meme, blessed with second sight; and delinquent uncles who exultantly torment Allende and her brothers. Irony and marvelous flights of fantasy mix with the icy reality of Paula's deathly illness as Allende sketches childhood scenes in Chile and Lebanon; her uncle Salvatore Allende's reign and ruin as Chilean president; her struggles to shake off or find love; and her metamorphosis into a writer.

From Publishers Weekly
Allende is a mesmerizing novelist (The House of the Spirits; The Stories of Eva Luna) who here takes on a double challenge. Writing nonfiction for the first time, she interweaves the story of her own life with the slow dying of her 28-year-old daughter, Paula. A magician with words, Allende makes this grim scenario into a wondrous encounter with the innermost sorrows and joys of another human being. In 1991, while living in Madrid with her husband, Paula was felled by porphyria, a rare blood disease, and, despite endless care by her mother and husband, lapsed into an irreversible coma. Her mother, as she watched by Paula's bedside, began to write this book, driven by a desperation to communicate with her unconscious daughter. She writes of her own Chilean childhood, the violent death of her uncle, Salvador Allende, and the family's flight to Venezuela from the oppressive Pinochet regime. Allende explores her relationship with her own mother, documented in the hundreds of letters they exchanged since she left home. Allende later married-and divorced-an undemanding and loyal man and became a fierce feminist, rebelling against the constraints of traditional Latin American society. Eventually, hope waning, Allende and her son-in-law take the comatose Paula to California, where the author lives with her second husband. The climactic scenes of Paula's death in the rambling old house by the Pacific Ocean seem to take place in another time and space. Only a writer of Allende's passion and skill could share her tragedy with her readers and leave them exhilarated and grateful. QPB selection. Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
In December 1991, the 28-year-old daughter of noted novelist Allende fell desperately ill and then slid into a coma, struck down by the inherited disease porphyria. As she nursed Paula daily in a hospital in Madrid, Allende kept a journal in which she told her daughter her life story: "I have the whole future ahead of me. I want to give it to you, Paula, because you have lost yours." The result is a deeply affecting tale, written in the rich, luminous prose typical of Allende's novels, that investigates the sources of her writing as it paints a vivid portrait of Chile moving from postcolonial propriety to Socialist experiment to Pinochet's oppression. In Part 2, written after Paula was brought back to California, the tone changes as Allende realizes that her daughter will never revive. In the remainder of the book Allende speaks not to Paula but about Paula, relating the effort it took to let her die peacefully. Pointing out that until the 20th century?and even now in all but the most industrially advanced countries?losing a child was a common experience, she gives some insight into what it takes to bear that loss. Highly recommended.-?Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

"Spellbinding.... In flawlessly rich prose she shares with us her most intimate feelings."

From Booklist
Readers particularly fond of Latin American fiction have appreciated this remarkable Chilean writer over the course of her career; others may have become aware of her by way of the recent movie version of her first novel, The House of the Spirits. But all Allende readers will embrace her latest book, which began as a letter to her grown daughter, who, in 1991, sank into an irreversible coma. As Allende sat at her daughter's bedside, as weeks turned into months and Paula remained comatose, she wrote down her family's history as a present for Paula upon her awakening--which, tragically, never happened. The letter grew to book length, and Allende now shares it with us. It's a vivid, dynamic account of her parents' and grandparents' lives and a remembrance of her own childhood, adolescence, and womanhood. She was born into a privileged Chilean family, and she has lived in various places around the world, about which she writes so lyrically. "La Paz," she records, "is an extraordinary city, so near heaven, and with such thin air, that you can see the angels at dawn. Your heart is always about to burst, and your gaze is lost in the consuming purity of endless vistas." As an adult in Chile, she worked in journalism and television; she's quite gripping when she discusses Chile under her uncle Salvador Allende's socialist regime and her family's terror after his deposition. Thereafter, she lived in Venezuela and the U.S., the places where her fiction writing career began and developed. Allende has an exciting life story to tell, and while her beloved daughter was not to be the recipient, it is, nonetheless, a gift to the rest of us. Brad Hooper

"Beautiful and heart-rending.... Memoir, autobiography, epicedium, perhaps even some fiction: they are all here, and they are all quite wonderful."

"Hermosa y comovedora....Memoria, autobiografíca, epicedium, tal vez algo de ficción; todo está allí y todo estámaravilloso."

"Fascinante...en una impecable y rica prosa comparte con nosotros sus sentimientos má íntimos."

Book Description

es una memoria encarnada que atrapa al lector como una novela de suspenso. Cuando la hija de Isabel Allend, Paula, cayó en coma gravemente enferma, la autora comenzó a escribir la historia de su familia para su hija inconsciente.En el desarrollo de la historia aparecen ante nostros ancestros extraordinarios, oímos recuerdos maravillosos y amargos de la infancia, anécdotas increibles de los años jóvenes, los secretos más íntimos se oyen en murmullos. En Paula, Allende escribe una poderosa autobiografía cuya aceptacíon de los mundos mágico y espiritual recuerdan al lector su primer libro La casa de los espíritus.

Language Notes
Text: Spanish

From the Publisher
Isabel Allende's brilliant, bestselling memoir. "Only a writer of Allende's passion and skill could share her tragedy with her readers and leave them exhilarated and grateful."--Publishers Weekly (starred review).

About the Author
Born in Peru, Isabel Allende was raised in Chile. She is the author of the novels The House of the Spirits, Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, and The Infinite Plan, the short story collection The Stories of Eva Luna, and the memoir Paula. Her most recent book was Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses. Isabel Allende lives in California.

Excerpted from Paula (Spanish Edition) by Isabel Allende. Copyright © 1996. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved
Escucha, Paula, voy a contarte una historia, para que cuando despiertes no estes tan perdida.La leyenda familiar comienza a principios del siglo pasado, cuando un fornido marinero vasco desembarco en las costas de Chile, con la cabeza perdida en proyectos de grandeza y protegido por el relicario de su madre colgado al cuello, pero para que it tan atras, basta decir que su descendencia fue una estirpe de mujeres impetuosas y hombres de brazos firmes para el trabajo y corazon sentimental. Algunos de caracter irascible murieron echando espumarajos por la boca, pero tal vez la causa no fue rabia, como senalaron las malas lenguas, sino alguna peste local. Compraron tierras fertiles en las cercanias de la capital que con el tiempo aumentaron de valor, se refinaron, levantaron mansiones senoriales con parques y arboledas, casaron a sus hijas con criollos ricos, educaron a los hijos en severos colegios religiosos, y asi con el correr de los anos se integraron a una orgullosa aristocracia de terratenientes que prevalecio por mas de un siglo, hasta que el vendaval del modernismo la reemplazo en el poder por tecnocratas y comerciantes. Uno de ellos era mi abuelo. Nacio en buena cuna, pero su padre murio temprano de un inexplicable escopetazo; nunca se divulgaron los detalles de to ocurrido esa noche fatidica, quizas fue un duelo, una venganza o un accidente de amor, en todo caso, su familia quedo sin recursos y, por ser el mayor, debio abandonar la escuela y buscar empleo para mantener a su madre y educar a sus hermanos menores. Mucho des pues, cuando se habia convertido en senor de fortuna ante quien los demas se quitaban el sombrero, me confeso que la peor pobreza es la de cuello y corbata, porque hay que disimularla. Se presentaba impecable con la ropa del padre ajustada a su tamano, los cuellos tiesos y los trajes bien planchados para disimular el desgaste de la tela. Esa epoca de penurias le temp16 el caracter, creia que la existencia es solo esfuerzo y trabajo, y que un hombre honorable no puede it por este mundo sin ayudar al projimo. Ya entonces tenia la expresion concentrada y la integridad que to caracterizaron, estaba hecho del mismo material petreo de sus antepasados y, como muchos de ellos, tenia los pies plantados en suelo firme, pero una parte de su alma escapaba hacia el abismo de los suenos. Por eso se enamoro de mi abuela, la menor de una familia de doce hermanos, todos locos excentricos y deliciosos, como Teresa, a quien al final de su vida empezaron a brotarle alas de santa y cuando murio se secaron en una noche todos los rosales del Parque Japones, o Ambrosio, gran rajadiablos y fornicador, que en sus momentos de generosidad se desnudaba en la caIle para regalar su ropa a los pobres. Me crie oyendo comentarios sobre el talento de mi abuela para predecir el futuro, leer la mente ajena, dialogar con los animales y mover objetos con la mirada. Cuentan que una vez desplazo una mesa de billar por el salon, pero en verdad to unico que vi moverse en su presencia fue un azucarero insignificante, que a la hora del to solia deslizarse erratico sobre la mesa. Esas facultades despertaban cierto recelo y a pesar del encanto de la muchacha los posibles pretendientes se acobardaban en su presencia; pero para mi abuelo la telepatia y la telequinesia eran diversiones inocentes y de ninguna manera obstaculos serios para el matrimonio, solo le preocupaba la diferencia de edad, ella era mucho menor y cuando la conocio todavia jugaba con munecas y andaba abrazada a una almohadita ronosa. De tanto verla como a una nina, no se dio cuenta de su pasion hasta que ella aparecio un dia con vestido largo y el cabello recogido y entonces la revelacion de un amor gestado por anos to sumio en tal crisis de timidez que dejo de visitarla. Ella adivino su estado de animo antes que el mismo pudiera desenredar la madeja de sus propios sentimientos y le mando una carta, la primera de muchas que le escribiria en los momentos decisivos de sus vidas. No se trataba de una esquela perfumada tanteando terreno, sino de una breve nota a lapiz en papel de cuaderno preguntandole sin preambulos si queria ser su marido y, en caso afirmativo, cuando. Meses mss tarde se llevo a cabo el matrimonio. La novia se presento ante el altar como una vision de otras epocas, ataviada en encajes color marfil y con un desorden de azahares de cera enredados en el mono; al verla el decidio que la amaria porfiadamente hasta el fin de sus dias.Para mi esta pareja fueron siempre el Tata y la Meme. De sus hijos solo mi madre interesa en esta historia, porque si empiezo a contar del resto de la tribu no terminamos nunca y ademas los que sun viven estan muy lejos; asi es el exilio, lanza a la gente a los cuatro vientos y despues resulta muy dificil reunir a los dispersos. MI madre nacio entre dos guerras mundiales un dia de primavera en los anos veinte, una nina sensible, incapaz de acompanar a sus hermanos en las correrias por el atico de la casa cazando ratones para guardarlos en frascos de formol. Crec16 protegida entre las paredes de su hogar y del colegio, entretenida en lecturas romanticas y obras de caridad, con lama de ser la mss bells que se habia visto en esa familia de mujeres enigmaticas. Desde la pubertad tuvo varios enamorados rondandola como moscardones, que su padre mantenia a la distancia y su madre analizaba con sus naipes del Tarot, hasta que los coqueteos inocentes terminaron con la llegada a su destino de un hombre talentoso y equivoco, quien desplazo sin esfuerzo a los demas rivales y le colmo el alma de inquietudes.



Paula is a soul-baring memoir, which, like a novel of suspense, one reads without drawing a breath. The point of departure for these moving pages is a tragic personal experience. In December 1991, Isabel Allende's daughter, Paula, became gravely ill and shortly thereafter fell into a coma. During months in the hospital, the author began to write the story of her family for her unconscious daughter. In the telling, bizarre ancestors appear before our eyes; we hear both delightful and bitter childhood memories, amazing anecdotes of youthful years, the most intimate secrets passed along in whispers. Chile, Allende's native land, comes alive as well, with the turbulent history of the military coup of 1973, the ensuing dictatorship, and her family's years of exile. As an exorcism of death, in these pages Isabel Allende explores the past and questions the gods.


Washington Post Book World

Fascinante...en una impecable y rica prosa comparte con nosotros sus sentimientos má íntimos.

Los Angeles Times Book Review

Hermosa y comovedora....Memoria, autobiografíca, epicedium, tal vez algo de ficción; todo está allí y todo estámaravilloso.


. . .[Allende] piles on episode and anecdote in a brilliant flood of autobiographical reminiscence spanning three generations on four continents. . . . [her] fiction often deals in flat folkloric archetypes. . .Here we meet their complex, unpredictable sources. . . .. High-flown rhetoric obscures some of her introspective passages. And yet, in her reportorial mode she's unbeatable. -- The New York Times  — Suzanne Ruta


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