Friday, April 22, 2011

Of Love and Shadows

After reading The Kite Runner, I decided to read a book by Isabel Allende who wrote a testimony for The Kite Runner. I chose Of Love and Shadows, for no real reason, since I knew nothing about Isabel Allende. One of my best friends highly recommends Isabel Allende, and went through a phase where she read only this author and read most of her books at least 4 times. She holds Isabel Allende's writing style in high regard.

Of Love and Shadows is a love story, set in a county under a military dictatorship. The characters span all levels of society and wealth. Both main characters, the lovers, become more and more aware of the atrocities of the army and set about bring them to the world's attention. They then have to flee for their lives.

I found that the language was very poetic, though I wonder how much of the original writing is lost in the translation from Spanish to English. The descriptions are certainly very unique, and not how most English speaking writers would think.

However, the pace of this story was very slow. The character development was excessive - some characters were focused on and developed unnecessarily. The paragraphs were too long, making the reading difficult, and making it very difficult to find a place to put the book down. Because the descriptions were so unique, I kept being thrown out of the story, which was very off-putting.

The story takes place in a South American country - it is not clear which one, or whether the county itself is fictional. The woman, Irene, is brought up wealthy and very naive. Her character changes the most, since she discovers both love and shadows. She originally thinks she is in love with her long-time boyfriend, a Captain in the ruling army. After she finds out about some atrocities committed by the army, she starts to think of her fiance in a new light and wonders what he may have done.

Francisco is the third son of a university professor who lost his job when he was proclaimed as an enemy of the county, and blacklisted for his socialist ideals. Francisco is educated abroad, and has a doctorate in psychology, but cannot find work as a psychologist. He becomes a photographer for a woman's magazine where Irene works. He falls in love with Irene straight away.

Irene and Francisco's adventures whilst investigating the army's atrocities brings them closer, and Irene finally realises she loves Francisco.

Many people go missing, and are assumed killed by the government, during this story. Some people realise what the government really is, and some people try to stay oblivious. Some of the relationships are beautiful, and tragic. It is a very touching story, but I think a couple more re-writes could have perfected it.

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