“Allende is a mesmerizing novelist 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.”
“The narrative magic that thundered through Allende's first novel, The House of the Spirits, triumphs here, too. This is a book about a daughter's death, but it also is Allende's story—lush with her memories, impressions and passions: vibrant with strange lands, rich lives, and grand characters: pulsating with an almost unbearable love of words.”
—The Miami Herald
“Allende's best and most magical work. She ranges across time, balancing the intoxications of love and magical moments in her family's past with the maddening intractability of Paula's coma. The memories are vivid and imaginative: ‘In my grandfather's house, which was as long as a railroad,’ she recalls, ‘the walls were so thin that our dreams intermingled at night.’”
—The Seattle Times
“In flawlessly rich prose [Allende] shares with us her most intimate feelings as she learns to accept that her daughter will never be rescued and that the only thing that Allende can do is give comfort to an inert and unresponsive human being. Magnificently translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, this is an emotionally charged, spellbinding memoir.”
—The Washington Post
“Spellbinding…in flawlessly rich prose [Allende] shares with us her most intimate feelings.”
—Washington Post Book World
“A deeply affecting tale, written in the rich, luminous prose typical of Allende's novels…Highly recommended.”
“Beautiful and heart-rending…Memoir, autobiography, epicedium, perhaps even some fiction: they are all here, and they are all quite wonderful.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Isabel Allende is among the most popular writers of our time, in any language, and she certainly is one of the best. An unabashed storyteller, she won instant acclaim with her first novel, The House of the Spirits. Her others, particularly Eva Luna and The Stories of Eva Luna, further enhanced her reputation. This new book, Paula, while technically nonfiction and stunningly personal, even intimate, glories in all the virtues of her best stories.
Isabel Allende lives in a world that seems pantheistic, so vividly alive are all its things, its places, its people, its spirits. The latter, especially, move easily and comfortably through these pages, just as vividly as mine live with me and yours with you. Getting them convincingly on paper is the hard part, and it is Allende's breathtakingly casual confidence that makes them so real.
In the end, Paula is about infinitely more than its immediate subject, as moving as that is. It is about, as Allende writes near the end, a kind of reality different from the everyday. It is about the ‘reality the soul knows.’
And what of Paula?
Oh, no. This is a book you'll have to live through yourself.”
—St. Petersburg Times
“Paula is more than autobiography—it is a mother's baring of her soul to the spirit of her beloved daughter while facing her innermost fears…Allende's acceptance of magic and its coexistence with reality…allows her to tell this story with the full power of her gifted voice. She writes of her personal tragedy while still casting a spell of enchantment. The power of this book is Allende's embrace of life as she learns to accept her daughter's death and is transformed by it.”
“The true story of Allende's life is even more wonderful, spirited and humorous than its imaginary rendition in her first novel.”
—San Francisco Examiner
“A celebration…filled with love and magical moments.”
“Has all the lyrical intensity—even, on occasion, the profound joy—that made The House of the Spirits so exciting.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Everything about Isabel Allende is vivid. When the world-famous Chilean author looks at you, it's with an X-ray gaze. When she speaks, every word is wrapped in a tangible passion—even though her voice is whisper soft.
This vibrating intensity comes through in her best-selling novels, such as The House of the Spirits and Of Love and Shadows.
It is also evident in her newest book, Paula, which is the author's first nonfiction work.”
—The Denver Post
“When her 27-year-old daughter, Paula, fell ill in December 1991 with a hereditary metabolic disorder known as porphyria and quickly lapsed into a coma, the writer's courage failed her. Then her agent, Carmen Balcells, showed up at the Madrid hospital with a stack of yellow note pads. This memoir is the result, and it is Ms. Allende's best work to date.
A mother trying to entertain a bedridden child, she piles on episode and anecdote in a brilliant flood of autobiographical reminiscence spanning three generations on four continents. A real-time account of Paula's illness—the coma lasted a year—and her family's anguish intervenes with increasing insistency, until the two narrative threads dwindle to one, which snaps with the young woman's death in December 1992. Celebration rather than despair provides the overriding tone. As Paula courageously reveals, she has everything it takes: the ear, the eye, the mind, the heart, the all-encompassing humanity.”
—Suzanne Ruta, The New York Times
“Isabel Allende…has written a non-fiction masterpiece. Paula is a breathtaking tour de force inspired by a mother's love for her daughter.
This is a sweeping memoir of family history, filled with ghosts, mysterious disappearances and coup de foudre love affairs, and Allende's own extraordinary life in South America, Europe, Lebanon and the United States.
The memoir is addressed to Allende's brilliant, beautiful daughter, Paula, struck down…by a rare metabolic disease.”
“This heartfelt autobiography is astonishing in its power to speak directly to the reader, perhaps because Allende's voice has a health and generosity that we welcome even when she writes of tragedy.”
“Isabel Allende, the distinguished Chilean writer, was celebrating the publication of one of her novels at a Barcelona party in December 1991, when she got word that her daughter was in a hospital in Madrid. She flew to her side. ‘I love you too, Mama,’ the 27-year-old Paula murmured just before she was seized by convulsions and fell into a coma. She never woke up, and a year later she died in Allende's arms. ‘I had a choice,’ the author recalls. ‘Was I going to commit suicide? Sue the hospital? Or was I going to write a book that would heal me?’
Allende's life story, teeming with picaresque characters and improbable adventures, reads like her novels. In Paula she weaves it, sometimes seamlessly, sometimes abruptly, between graphic passages on her daughter's illness, Allende's own despair, and her metaphysical meditations on the life of the spirit. If the line between fact and fiction seems to blur, Allende explains, ‘magical realism is not a literary device; it's how I live.’”
—Margot Hornblower, Time
“An exquisitely rendered, soul-baring memoir…It is a hymn from the heart, written by one of the most acclaimed authors of our time.”
—Book of the Month Club
“Beautiful and heart-rending…”
—Los Angeles Times