cover image Of Love and Shadows

Of Love and Shadows

Isabel Allende. Alfred A. Knopf, $17.95 (274pp) ISBN 978-0-394-54962-0

Allende has forsaken the epic multi-generational sweep of her bestselling first novel, The House of the Spirits, for a more tightly focused yet equally satisfying tale of love and political commitment. Irene Beltran, the unconventional daughter of a wealthy family, and Francisco Leal, son of Spanish exiles, are reporter and photographer for a women's magazine in an unnamed Latin American dictatorship. They stumble onto a mass grave where the bodies of people tortured and murdered by the police have been dumped. As their love grows in the shadow of death, Irene and Francisco struggle to bring the men responsible to justice. They win a qualified victory when public outcry and international condemnation, sparked by photographs and tape recordings smuggled out of the country, force the authorities to allow a trial and conviction. But the lovers must flee the continent to avoid reprisals from an enraged government that has no intention of truly altering its policies. The novel ends with Irene and Francisco en route to Spain, where they will make a new life while waiting for democracy to return to their homeland. Allende is a smashing storyteller who brings the most minor characters vividly to life; her absorbing new novel should win her an even wider readership. BOMC alternate. (May)