Friday, June 5, 2009

30 Second Review - Isabel Allende "Paula"

I have not read much ever since the writings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez displaced the entire sum of human literature as insignificant and ever since I'd resigned to the memory of his endless sentences, the dreamy metaphors, the impossible settings that moved me to tears. Here and there, I'd pick and choose but never read more than a page of an actual book. And yet.

Isabel Allende was referred to me several times and each time I said I'd get to it. It seems she chose to come to me first as her "Paula" was lent to me with great hesitancy, with only the simple promise of my enjoyment of its pages. Which I did, very much.

The writing of Allende, as I am discovering, is not only fine as lace but has the consistency and magic of a dim room unopened from a previous century. There is also the unmistakable miracle of the taste and feel of Marquez' finest writing in her pages and her being a separate human being from another country, time and place remains a surprising fact. Like I said when I read "One Hundred Years of Solitude" - forever in my mind the greatest single feat of writing ever known to man - these books, his and hers, read like fairy tales. The sentences go on, the years pass and the people that populate the pages seem to live and breathe with an air that is their own.

From the instant I picked up "Paula", it was difficult to set down. Written with endless grace, the book is the ultimate exercise in restraint. Facing the slow death of her child, Allende summons from the deepest depths of her being a text that is a haunting, painful memoir of the years in which her daughter inched closer and closer to death. Woven into the story of mind-numbing days and months spent in the hospital waiting, praying for improvement, is Allende's own story of woe and triumph, of mountains and rivers crossed, filled to the brim with an impossible family made real by the sheer quality and austere seriousness of the writing.

The immense sorrow Allende felt for those months is universal and while we will all face the loss of those we love, the inexhaustible font of words that guide Allende's pen has given voice and words to an ultimate letter of sorrow. Dense, dark and moving, the novel is not an uplifting tale and has no happy ending but instead finds closure in the ending of another of the endless cycles of life and death.

Godspeed, Paula, woman.
Welcome, Paula, spirit.

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