I’m a bit of a hedonist at heart. I love good wine, good food, clothes, travel, music and parties, but what I like best is actually doing nothing and chilling out. My ideal pastime? Well, it’s very simple actually – a quiet time with a good book in hand, preferably in a bubble bath or in my oversized armchair near the radiator. I love reading and I read almost everything: adventure, horror, crime, SF, fantasy, classics and romances.
I first came across Isabel Allende’s books about a decade ago when a friend was staying with us for a week. At the time I was in one of those ghastly between books periods, where you have finished a very good novel and you have nothing to read, and you don’t want to start anything new because you fear that it will not be as good as the one you just finished. My guest had two Allende books with her, ‘The House Of The Spirits’ (stunning!) and ‘The Portrait in Sepia’ (really good too), and she highly recommended them to me. I think those two books were the fastest I ever read. Allende immediately conquered my heart and my imagination and soon became one of my favourite authors.
Isabel Allende was borne in Peru and grew up in Chile. She later moved to California where she currently lives, and therefore most of her works are set in the Americas, portraying the society and political background of the past in ex-Spanish colonies through the lives of her characters. Allende relates the culture and tradition of native populations and their terrible situation under Spanish rule without resorting to cliché or being overly brutal. Because she writes in a soft voice and uses “pastel colours,” the contrasts in her books are perhaps even more dramatic. She is a truly talented writer, a winner of several literature awards, who masterfully uses beautiful prose to paint her world and to tell always extraordinary and atmospheric stories.
‘Zorro’ is one of Allende’s most excellent novels. I’ve just finished it and have a burning need to talk about it. It’s a beautifully re-told old legend of California’s most noble hero, and despite the plentiful other works and film adaptations of the story, this is new and surprising. It’s a wonderfully told tale of transition from boyhood to manhood, of honour and injustice, adventure, friendship, American Indian mystical lore, travel, spies, sword fights, sea voyages and romance – and so much more, all set in the fascinating historical period of the post French Revolution world and the difficult relationships between Native Americans, the Church, the Spaniards and the French.
The author’s rich narration makes it so easy to read. The book, full of humour and never dull, packed with sarcasm and wit and unforgettable characters, delivers hours of enjoyment. But don’t make a mistake; this isn’t a trivial book. It’s Allende’s trademark to spin a disturbing and atmospheric story without compromising the lightness of style and humour. As always below the easy going adventure story there is the hidden tragedy of Native Americans who were subjected to genocide, the personal dramas of the characters and the problem of conflicted human nature. Very good novel.
WINE OF THE WEEK
Martin ‘O Rosal’ Albariño, D.O Rias Baixas
Let’s stay with the Spanish theme. This yummy Spanish white (85% Albariño) is bright, vibrant and playful with a nose so rich of tropical fruit aromas – of passion fruit, mango and pineapple – that it feels almost off-dry in the mouth. There are also fragrant notes of roses and peach, making it even more attractive. Lowly round palate is clean and mouth-watery with a long lasting finish; this stuff brings the sunshine home. Really difficult to dislike.