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   Book Info

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Author: Isabel Allende
ISBN: 0060927216
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."



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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