Saturday, May 30, 2009

Book 57: Of Love and Shadows

Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende

In ways, this book was a little different from what I'm used to from Allende: most of her novels I've read tend to be set in slightly more historical times or they are sweeping stories spanning over several generations, beginning in the past and ending in the present (or close to the present). This novel, however, took place in a much more modern era in its entirety: the mid to late '70s or possibly early '80s. The other main difference is that while most of Allende's novels have political views and commentary in them, they are also mostly character driven with a certain amount of romance. This one tends to be driven mainly by the political event and action with the characters and love story taking second place rather than center stage.

Of course this doesn't mean that Allende doesn't develop a variety of strong characters as usual, just that they seem more driven by political events than usual perhaps - and simply that the main focus of the story is the uncovering of a political scandal.

Her main characters Irene and Francisco, a journalist and photographer from very different backgrounds, stumble into the middle of a story while out for a common interest story about a newly found saint. The girl disappears, and Irene and Francisco are trying to find out what exactly happened to her. Francisco who is middle class and has a Marxist father is already aware of some of the outrages committed by his government and already secretly helps people escape the country. Irene on the other hand has been sheltered coming from a well-to-do background and especially in the beginning of the book she has an innocence and naivete about her that seems almost frail and obnoxious. As they investigate the case of the missing saint, Irene's eyes are opened, and she and Francisco discover something far more horrific.

Allende also refers to the desaparecidos, or all the disappeared, people that went missing after going into police custody during the regime of Pinochet. Once I saw the term, I vaguely remembered learning about them in 9th grade history class although for some reason I'd confused Chile and Argentina.

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