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Paula Paperback – March 15, 1996

207 customer reviews

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Paula: A Memoir
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Editorial Reviews Review

"Listen, Paula. I am going to tell you a story so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost." So says Chilean writer Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits) in the opening lines of the luminous, heart-rending memoir she wrote while her 28-year-old daughter Paula lay in a coma. In its pages, she ushers an assortment of outrageous relatives into the light: her stepfather, an amiable liar and tireless debater; grandmother Meme, blessed with second sight; and delinquent uncles who exultantly torment Allende and her brothers. Irony and marvelous flights of fantasy mix with the icy reality of Paula's deathly illness as Allende sketches childhood scenes in Chile and Lebanon; her uncle Salvatore Allende's reign and ruin as Chilean president; her struggles to shake off or find love; and her metamorphosis into a writer.

From Publishers Weekly

Allende is a mesmerizing novelist (The House of the Spirits; The Stories of Eva Luna) who here takes on a double challenge. Writing nonfiction for the first time, she interweaves the story of her own life with the slow dying of her 28-year-old daughter, Paula. A magician with words, Allende makes this grim scenario into a wondrous encounter with the innermost sorrows and joys of another human being. In 1991, while living in Madrid with her husband, Paula was felled by porphyria, a rare blood disease, and, despite endless care by her mother and husband, lapsed into an irreversible coma. Her mother, as she watched by Paula's bedside, began to write this book, driven by a desperation to communicate with her unconscious daughter. She writes of her own Chilean childhood, the violent death of her uncle, Salvador Allende, and the family's flight to Venezuela from the oppressive Pinochet regime. Allende explores her relationship with her own mother, documented in the hundreds of letters they exchanged since she left home. Allende later married-and divorced-an undemanding and loyal man and became a fierce feminist, rebelling against the constraints of traditional Latin American society. Eventually, hope waning, Allende and her son-in-law take the comatose Paula to California, where the author lives with her second husband. The climactic scenes of Paula's death in the rambling old house by the Pacific Ocean seem to take place in another time and space. Only a writer of Allende's passion and skill could share her tragedy with her readers and leave them exhilarated and grateful. QPB selection.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st HarperPerennial Ed edition (March 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060927216
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060927219
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (207 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,239,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of eight novels, including, most recently, Zorro, Portrait in Sepia, and Daughter of Fortune. She has also written a collection of stories; three memoirs, including My Invented Country and Paula; and a trilogy of children's novels. Her books have been translated into more than twenty-seven languages and have become bestsellers across four continents. In 2004 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Isabel Allende lives in California.

My thoughts on Kindle en Español:

"El impacto de los libros electrónicos es formidable y está remeciendo a la industria del libro tanto como a los lectores. Aunque todavía la idea es relativamente nueva en español, ya se ha extendido en otras lenguas tan dramáticamente, que muchos autores nuevos publican en versión digital, saltándose a las editoriales. Confieso que soy adicta a mis Kindle y mi IPad, donde leo con letra grande y clara, en una pantalla liviana. Antes viajaba con una maleta de libros, ahora llevo mi biblioteca en la cartera y puedo adquirir nuevos libros en cualquier parte del mundo en pocos segundos. Dicen que los jóvenes le tienen miedo al papel y no tienen el hábito de leer - lo cual no es totalmente cierto - pero ahora pueden leer en sus pantallas. También dicen que la ficción desaparecerá, pero eso jamás ocurrirá, porque la humanidad necesita historias tanto como necesita oxígeno. Tal vez en el futuro el libro, ese compañero maravilloso, será un objeto de coleccionistas y de bibliotecas y nosotros, simples mortales, leeremos en pantallas. Pero seguiremos leyendo, de eso no tengo dudas." Isabel Allende

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By k-r-h on July 24, 2001
Format: School & Library Binding
I first read Isabel Allende when my friend's mother recommended "The House of the Spirits." Later, I told my friend's mother how much I had enjoyed the novel. On that occasion she handed me her copy of "Paula," saying, "Hear. Read this." I obliged. "Paula" is the author's autobiography, written for her daughter, as she tries to nurse her daughter through a rare illness that has left her comatose. Allende visits the events in her past as she copes with the present. "Paula" moved me on many different levels. Allende's story of her own past is captivating. Her present day struggle to heal her daughter is heartwrenching. Despite the sadnesses of the book, it is a book that affirms life. I read it whenever I feel have wallowed in self-pity for too long. It reminds me that it is I who am in charge of my destiny. After crying the many tears I cry when I read "Paula," I feel cleansed, rejuvenated, and ready to live life again.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Isabel Allende has made her name as a writer in the genre of magic realism, where fantastical events occur, often without warning. When her daughter Paula collapsed into an irreversibly coma due to a rare disease, Allende found herself desperate for a story to tell her dying daughter. This is the book that arose out of a mother's need to understand the past, the future, and the mysterious connection between the two. Allende tells of events before her birth, of Chilean politics and how it affected her famously political family, of falling in love, of becoming a writer, of motherhood, of her journey through Paula's illness - while embracing the spirituality that pervades her fiction. Surprisingly, the story of Allende's life bears remarkable resemblance, both in fact and in imagery, to her bestselling novel THE HOUSE OF SPIRITS.
While sadness frames this memoir, the core of it pulses with life and faith. Beautifully written, with moments that will make you pause with admiration, this book is startling and powerful. Every fan of Allende should read this, both for the context it provides for her writing and for the force of her storytelling.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 15, 1997
Format: Paperback
Isabel Allende is truly a brave woman as she shares a very personal tragedy. The thing that is so refreshing about the book is that while the imminent death of her daughter hangs over your head, Isabel is masterful at telling not only the story of her daughter but the history of a very confusing, wonderful country. I have never laughed aloud and cried by reading words on a page, but Isabel has made me do that. She is an expert story teller. I don't know how the english version stands up, but as someone who has been to her home country and someone who is very interested in literature from Latin America, this (the spanish version for those who can read it) is a must must must read.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dana on June 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book will make you cry and laugh and everything in between. The first half of the book is a letter to her daughter written in the hope that she will wake from her coma. In fear that Paula will not remember her past Isabel Allende tells her the true story of their family. The second half is a farewell to Paula. It is a story of love and loss in many aspects. Love and loss of family, of country, and of life. It is gripping to read of people who have had to live in exile and find their way without the safety of being able to go "home." It is even more beautiful to find that their home is found wherever they are. This book should be read by mothers, daughters, immigrants, and anyone decending from people who have lived through persecution, exile, or political turmoil.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Maurice Williams on July 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Paula" is a memoir of the author's life. It began as a letter to her daughter during her battle with the debilitating disease, porphyria. Paula slips into a coma and remains in that state for over a year. In this memoir, Allende reveals the trials of her life in Chile and her travels abroad. She writes of the political unrest in her homeland, her role in assisting political fugitives during that time and her eventual launch into the literary career she enjoys today. The book is filled with love of family, country and an unrelenting passion for life. Allende's connection with the spirits of her ancestors provides a magical and mystical backdrop for a real life experience that could not be replicated by the most imaginative of writers.
This memoir allowed Allende to come to terms with her daughter's death and to appreciate her life more fully. Translated in flawless English, this memoir takes the reader on a spiritual and historical journey of discovery. Paula will remain a central figure (spirit) in the life of her family, and this story ensures that she will maintain a place in the memory of readers as well.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kasey M. Moctezuma on June 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is such a beautiful book, a beautifully written story of Isabel Allende's life and the life of her family. I was not expecting the book to be what it was in this context - there are a lot of family stories and stories about her life in Chile. The book is fascinating, but is also quite sad as well. Indeed there are many passages about Allende's daughter Paula being in a coma and later in a vegetative state, and these passages, although well written are often times very emotionally difficult to read. My heart goes out to the author - it must have been an incredibly difficult book to write. I found the book easier to read a bit at a time, and as I was reading it in the original Spanish, this was not difficult. It is well worth reading. I waited too long to read this book because I thought that it was going to be nonstop depressing news of Paula in the hospital and for the most part, it really isn't, but it is sad and it probably will make you cry at the end, but go for it anyway - it's good to have feelings to know that you are alive, right?
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