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Isabel Allende: De amor y de sombra (Of Love and Shadows)

Allende’s second novel, like her first, confronts the upheaval in Chile head on. However, it is far less successful than its predecessor and, at times, comes perilously close to soap opera. It compares two people. The first is Irene Beltrán, the privileged fashion photographer who is unaware of the nasty things going on around her (once again we are in an unnamed Latin American country that is obviously Chile). The second is Francisco Leal, the son of a Marxist professor, working underground to help the victims of the atrocities. They become lovers and, together, find a mine full of decaying bodies, obviously the work of the government. However, their discovery puts them in great danger and they have to leave the country, which they manage to do. Allende’s heart is clearly in the right place and her passionate involvement in the cause of her country is laudable. She also writes well – the escape from Chile over the mountains is one part that sticks in my mind as being most gripping – but, nevertheless, I felt that this novel did not take off the way La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits) did. The spoilt rich kid who sees the light because of her love for a man of the people – well, I have seen it before.

Publishing history

First published in Spanish 1984 by Plaza & Janés
First published in English 1987 by Knopf
Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden