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Literature / Of Love and Shadows

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De amor y de sombra is a 1984 novel by Chilean author Isabel Allende. In Pinochet's Chile, reporter Irene Beltrán and her photographer Francisco Leal strike up a close relationship that crosses all the boundaries. She is wealthy, from a family of junta supporters, and engaged to an officer, while he is the poor son of a communist, and is secretly working to undermine the dictatorship.

When the two journey to a remote village to investigate the miraculous trances of a young girl named Evangelina Ranquileo, their arrival coincides with that of the Lieutenant Ramírez and his troops. Following an altercation with Ramírez, the faith healer is kidnapped by the squadron, prompting Irene and Francisco's resolution to find her and indict the junta.


But in a land of arbitrary arrests and summary executions, the truth is a dangerous thing to seek.

In 1994, a film adaptation starring Jennifer Connelly and Antonio Banderas was released.

This work contains examples of:

  • Camp Gay: Marco, the hairstylist who works in Irene's magazine.
  • Convulsive Seizures:
  • Disappeared Dad: Quite literally. Irene's father steps out to buy cigarettes and never returns, leaving his wife Beatriz with all his debts. He is believed to be one of "the disappeared". Near the end of the book, it turns out he's been living with a mistress in the Caribbean the whole time.
  • Driven to Suicide: Javier, Francisco's older brother, because of the shame of being unable to find work.
  • Good Shepherd: José, brother to Francisco, is a priest who works helping out the needy in remote villages. He later helps Francisco reveal bodies in the abandoned mine.
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  • Impoverished Patrician: Irene and her mother have fallen on hard times since Eusebio Beltrán disappeared.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Marco's crush on Francisco, who is straight.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Irene works for a women's magazine. After Evangelina is kidnapped, she interviews somebody who gives her information about Evangelina's fate and enough clues to find evidence. An attempt is made to assassinate her.
  • Magic Realism: Particularly where Evangelina is concerned. She is believed to perform miracles.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Gustavo Morante is assassinated because he tries to get his country's armed forces on a good path.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Lieutenant Ramirez arrests Evangelina after she beat him up single-handedly. He is so humiliated that he rapes and murders her.
  • Switched at Birth: Evangelina. Her mother took a peek when her own baby (dark-skinned, dark-haired, and with big black eyes) was coming out of her, and she immediately realizes that the fair-skinned baby is not hers.
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  • Police Are Useless: When Digna Ranquileo realizes her baby was switched with another, she complains, as does another woman who gave birth at the same hospital. The police threaten to detain them for slandering the hospital staff, so Digna and the other woman just take home the babies they were given and give them both the same name: Evangelina.
  • Selective Ignorance:
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Francisco and Irene are forced to change their appearance, obtain false documents, and leave the country. As they cross the border on a pair of mules, they say to themselves that they will return.