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Zorro: A Novel (P.S.)

Zorro: A Novel (P.S.)

A child of two worlds — the son of an aristocratic Spanish military man turned landowner and a Shoshone warrior woman — young Diego de la Vega cannot silently bear the brutal injustices visited upon the helpless in late-eighteenth-century Californ

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5 Responses to “Zorro: A Novel (P.S.)”

  1. Heidi Anne Heiner says:

    Review by Heidi Anne Heiner for Zorro: A Novel (P.S.)
    Rating:
    Isabel Allende reinvents the character first introduced by Johnston McCulley in his “The Mark of Zorro” many years ago. Here we have a Zorro firmly planted in his own time, but relevant to our time and sensibilities. Through Allende’s masterful prose, Diego de la Vega, aka Zorro, becomes a hero of flesh and bones, courageous and human. She vividly recreates him and other characters we can believe in. I found myself able to overshadow the overpowering memories of Antonio Banderas, Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn in the role as I read. She also describes the landscapes and settings and makes them important characters in their own right. The story is intriguing and hard to set down when other responsibilities beckon you away and back into regular living.

    More often reinterpreted on the movie screen than in literature, this book, along with a few other recent treatments of Zorro, will hopefully inspire more authors to explore this interesting character, one of the United States’ own Robin Hood characters.

    The novel has wide appeal, literary and well-written for those wanting a richer reading experience while exciting and heroic for those wanting a light summer read. It’s a healthy reading indulgence.

  2. Jana L. Perskie says:

    Review by Jana L. Perskie for Zorro: A Novel (P.S.)
    Rating:
    Historically, whenever and wherever oppression exists, the people who are subject to it look for a heroic figure to defend them and to punish their persecutors. Such a paladin was Robin Hood, another is the legendary Zorro. One of my favorite authors, Isabel Allende, has reached deep into her ample well of talent and brought forth a hero who is more human than demigod. She has breathed fresh life into the Zorro of myth, and gifted him with a heart, a soul, a good mind, an indomitable spirit and human fallibilities. This beautifully told tale of adventure and classical romance is chock-full of swashbuckling swordplay, ocean voyages, pirate attacks, Native American lore and rites, detailed fencing episodes, social injustice, secret underground societies, evil villains, duels at dawn, damsels in distress, unrequited love, gypsy camps, noble drawing rooms, drama, rollicking humor, vivid characters, tremendous energy…and so much more. The story’s narrator is even a mystery person whose identity is not revealed until the conclusion. Ms. Allende’s “Zorro” is a glorious literary adventure which will provide hours of entertainment for young and old alike.

    Don Diego de la Vega was born in Alto California at the end of the 18th century to a Spanish aristocrat, and the daughter of a Shoshone shaman and a Hispanic soldier turned deserter. Diego is raised alongside Bernardo, the son of his Indian wet nurse, and the two milk brothers remain inseparable throughout their lives. Although born into privilege, Diego becomes aware of social injustice at a very early age because of his mestizo blood and his bonds of friendship and brotherhood with Bernardo. European settlers continually perpetrate acts of violence against the Native American population and the two boys are helpless to come to the defense of their people.

    The two receive a multi-faceted education. The Shoshone teach them how to hunt and fight like Indian braves. White Owl, the shaman and Diego’s grandmother, instructs them in indigenous lore, sends them on individual quests for a vision and their totems, and brings them through the rites of manhood. After a fox saves Diego’s life, the small animal, el zorro, becomes his emblematic animal. White Owl tells him, “Zorro is your totemic animal, your spiritual guide. . . You must cultivate its skill, its cleverness, its intelligence.” Don Alejandro de la Vega gives his son lessons appropriate to a young Spanish grandee, including fencing, and instructs him about all things necessary to run their enormous rancho. Whatever Diego is taught, he passes on to Bernardo. The first part of the novel is about life and politics in California, Mexico, and Europe during the Napoleonic Wars, along with vignettes of the events and traumas which touch and effect the lives of the boys, and their families, as they move into adolescence.

    Diego is sent to Barcelona to receive a noble’s education, like that of his Spanish ancestors. Bernardo accompanies him, as a servant, even though he is no such thing. They stay with a close friend of de la Vega’s, a Francophile, Tomas de Romeu, who has two daughters, the beautiful Juliana, and the spunky, younger, cross-eyed Isabel. The girls and their duena Nuria, are to play important roles in this tale. All of Spain is under Napoleon’s control and the Spanish are rebelling. Guerilla fighters attack the French forces everywhere. Meanwhile, Diego enrolls in the School of Humanities, and is mentored by the famous fencing master, Maestro Manuel Escalante, who literally wrote the definitive manual on the art of swordplay. Escalante recruits Diego into the secret society, Justicia, whose members’ are pledged, “To seek justice, nourish the hungry, clothe the naked, protect widows and orphans, give shelter to the stranger and never spill innocent blood.” It is in Barcelona that the revolutionary character Zorro is born.

    The novel’s final chapters deal with the return of Diego, Bernardo, their traveling companions, and Zorro. And in Alto California, Zorro confronts his enemies at last, the homegrown kind and those who have pursued him from abroad.

    As always, Isabel Allende’s narrative is a delight to read. Her descriptive passages bring to life the local color, sounds and smells of Indian villages, the hacienda, the California countryside, Barcelona, gypsy camps, the sea, and a pirates’ island. Her characters brim with life. “Zorro: A Novel” is better than the stuff of legend and a book I highly recommend for an adventure-packed read.

    JANA

  3. E. Bukowsky says:

    Review by E. Bukowsky for Zorro: A Novel (P.S.)
    Rating:
    Isabel Allende’s enchanting new novel, “Zorro,” traces the origins of the legendary folk hero, who evolved from a privileged and foolish young man into an intrepid warrior. Zorro’s mission was to use his wits, agility, and formidable fighting skills to defend the poor and downtrodden in early nineteenth century Spain and California. Allende laces her narrative liberally with humor, irony, wit, and dozens of colorful characters.

    The story begins with the birth of Zorro’s alter ego, Diego de la Vega, in Alta California. We follow Diego to Barcelona, Spain, where he changes from a playful and callow youth into a passionate young man. The author enlivens her story with intrigue, sword fights, romance, treachery, adventures on the high seas, prison breaks, and fascinating historical background about the relationship between the Native Americans, the Spaniards, the French, and the Catholic Church during those turbulent times. There is never a dull moment in this nearly four hundred page book, and the translation from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden is excellent.

    Without compromising the spirit of fun that permeates her tale, Allende makes it clear that the Indians in North America were victims of genocide. The Spanish conquerors came to the New World, greedy for land and treasure, and they murdered the Indians, burned their villages, and enslaved those who survived. Allende creates a number of unforgettable Native American characters. Bernardo, Diego’s devoted “milk brother,” becomes mute after his mother is brutally assaulted; White Owl, Diego’s grandmother, is a respected shaman and medicinal healer who teaches her grandson to be faithful to his spiritual guide, the fox; and Toypurnia, Diego’s mother, is a fierce warrior who cannot be tamed, even by the love of the handsome hidalgo, Alejandro de la Vega.

    “Zorro” works so well because Allende goes back to storytelling basics. She puts interesting people in exotic settings, and she has them contend with nasty villains who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Finally, she features a brave, albeit flawed hero, who risks his life, with panache and style, to fight for justice. If this sounds like a Spanish “Star Wars,” that’s not far off the mark. Although the characters, the setting, and the time frames may vary, well-told stories about the battle of good versus evil will always find a place in people’s hearts.

  4. Scott Masterton says:

    Review by Scott Masterton for Zorro: A Novel (P.S.)
    Rating:
    This is the first time that I have read anything by Isabel Allende. Initially, her narrative style put me off a bit. I’m used to a lot on dialogue that describes the situations rather than a lot of narration telling me what is happening. HOWEVER, within a couple of chapters, I was completely pulled into the story by Isabel Allende’s tremendous ability to invite her reader into the world that she so adroitly creates. I found myself smiling as each piece of the puzzle that makes up the story I know so well fell into place. Allende allows her readers to observe young Diego De La Vega as each of his skills, personality traits and burning desires snap neatly into place. None of the characters motivations are left to chance, which makes for wonderful story telling.

    Her detailed descriptions of early California, Barcelona and Panama make the reader believe that Alende actually has seen and experienced the 18th century world that she describes. Also, she pulls no punches when it comes to her description of the indians and their mistreatment by early European aristocrats. The deep rifts between the upper class and lower class that is currently still in place in Mexico is made clear.

    Although the world of 18th century California is detailed, this story is character driven. Diego De La Vega (Zorro) is an extremely three dimensional character that runs the gamit of human emotion and Allende allows her readers to see his flaws as well as his attributes (as is so often true, the two are one and the same). Bernardo, who in previous incarnations of the Zorro story is a typical “sidekick”, is anything but a “sidekick” in this novel. Bernardo is a complex, spiritual young man that in many ways is the moral superior of Diego. He is a brother, but also a wise guide, keeping the brash young man on his life’s path. Rather than serving Diego because he is of “higher” caste, Bernardo serves out of love and a deep sense of destiny. In Yogic terms, these two men have found their darma, their purpose in life.

    “Zorro” is an interesting look at the legend as well as a wonderful, non-judgmental description of a world of the near past. “Zorro” is fiction, but Allende fills this story with historical fact as well clever analysis of the ramifications of many of the political decisions made at the time. Every dollar you spend on this one is an investment in thought and entertainment.

  5. Dorie says:

    Review by Dorie for Zorro: A Novel (P.S.)
    Rating:
    A very different book for Ms. Allende. Based on the fictitious, though widely known, legend of Zorro, Ms. Allende creates a character that we get to know so well, his unusual childhood, his doubts, ambitions and thirst for justice that one has to stop to realize that this is not a biography!! Diego de la Vega’s father is a Spanish officer and his mother a Shoshone Indian. He eventually is sent to Spain for a European upbringing and education.

    Characters are described in depth and are an incredible mix of Indians with their legends and beliefs, his “milk brother” Bernardo whom he is fiercely bonded to, radicals fighting for justice for the poor in Spain, a fencing master who teaches Diego everything he knows and a woman whose love he cannot have.

    I think the weakest part of this book is the first third, unfortunately, as the reader must have the desire to “stick through” the first 100 pages or so; but once they do will be nicely rewarded.

    A great book for anyone who loves an adventure; particularly those who grew up in the 50′s and watched the TV series and/or has a fascination for this character.

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