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One day in 1833, in the British colony of Valparaiso, Chile, a baby girl is left on a doorstep. The doorstep belongs to a Jeremy Sommers and his sister Rose, aristocratic Brits with a successful import-export business; very soon the baby belongs to them too. Their new adopted daughter, Eliza, is raised prim and proper with all the privileges of her station. Rose and Jeremy hope for an advantageous marriage and a life of ease, but Eliza, now a spirited sixteen-year-old, has her own plans. Madly in love with a lowly clerk, Eliza is determined to follow when he takes off for the California Gold Rush of 1849. But Eliza is pregnant, and life as a stowaway in the bowls of a ship doesn’t agree with her. Luckily the shipboard cook, Tao Chi’en, is a kind and generous man who takes Eliza under his wing and nurses her through her miscarriage. Tao has his own difficult life story—poverty, hard labor, a brief glimmer of hope when he’s trained as an acupuncturist, and then disaster again when he’s shanghaied out of Hong Kong and forced to work onboard. But Eliza proves to be as great a boon to Tao as he is to her, and the unlikely pair disembarks together in bustling San Francisco. Tao becomes a master healer in Chinatown and Eliza assists him (always with an eye out for her long lost love). But the Sommers back in Chile have won’t give up hope of finding her again, and meanwhile Eliza grows more attached to Tao and the unique freedom of their life together. A resident of both Chile and California, author Isabel Allende knows her history and lovingly packs her story full of romance, adventure, rich historical detail, and complex human dramas. Daughter of Fortune is a Booklist Editor’s Choice, an Oprah’s Book Club pick, prequel to another the equally excellent Portrait in Sepia, and a sheer delight to read.
posted Jan 29, 2010 at 12:07AM
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