by Isabel Allende

HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 0060778970.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 11/18/2005

Fiction: Multi-Cultural; Fiction: Literary

There I was roaming the bookstore with a $50 gift certificate in my hands. I did not have to spend it on something sensible or be practical and buy paperbacks. Zorro with its red, black and white dust jacket almost assaulted my eyes. Zorro, by Isabel Allende. Why, I read everything by her. I have loved her stories of young women, romance in the classical sense, family and spirits. Allende, in my opinion, is one of the best modern storytellers alive.

Who is that mysterious masked man? Not the Lone Ranger, although the Lone Ranger might have been based upon this character. Allende tells her own story of Diego de la Vega, son of an aristocratic Spaniard and a Shoshone warrior woman. I have no idea what is fact and what is fiction and, care not a wit. There is warmth, love, true friendship, cruelty, heroes and heroines, villains and adventure from California to Barcelona and back again.

Diego a.k.a. Zorro loves passionately, becomes a fencing master, rescues those in distress, duels at dawn, confronts pirates often shadowed by his enemy, Rafael Moncada, and more often in the company of Bernardo, his childhood friend.

All of the action which takes place between 1790 and 1815 is a joyous romp. Allende writes as if she is telling you and me and maybe a few others her story. An example is:

"We have come to the fifth and last part of this book. We shall soon be saying good-bye, dear readers, since the story ends when the hero returns to where he began, transformed by his adventures and by obstacles overcome. This is the norm in epic narratives from the Odyssey to fairy tales, and I shall not be the one to attempt innovation."

In the midst of the story, one also gets a true picture of Spanish colonial California and Old Barcelona under corrupt Napoleonic rule. Once again, Allende has captured my imagination and my heart.

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