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Have you read: ‘Zorro’ is a grand adventure

Brad Winans

“Zorro” by Isabel Allende

Zorro – the name conjures up a man in a black hat, mask and cape swooping in with sword in hand, stepping from the shadows or galloping in from the countryside to help the oppressed and downtrodden right the wrongs done to them. We think of a 19th century Robin Hood in early Spanish California with great swashbuckling capabilities. That is the picture many of us have had enhanced by the three movies and one TV show that has dealt with the subject. But, how did Zorro become Zorro? What prompted him to lead this life of altruistic values? Well, Isabel Allende has created the answer with her usual literary style plus a dash of panache.

This story is told in six parts that encompass the years 1790 to 1815, with a brief epilogue in 1840. You are first introduced to his father, Alejandro de la Vega, a soldier of the Hidalgo Class who comes to Alta California and settles in the Los Angeles basin. There he acquires a large land grant, marries and becomes Alcalde of the pueblo of Los Angles. His marriage is to a woman of a socially unacceptable strata, but his position and popularity as Alcalde supersedes this “problem.” With the birth of his son, Diego, his father starts to educate him in the ways of a Spaniard of his class, through Padre Mendoza of Mission San Gabriel. This is not to say that Diego’s instruction in life is only along the Spanish line. His mother, grandmother and best friend all enhance his life lessons and he begins to establish a personality that will lead to the establishment of Zorro.

Parts two and three of the book deal with the years 1810 to 1814 and his further education in Barcelona. It is here that he receives his instruction with the sword by the finest teacher in Europe and also joins a secret society bound to help the disposed and oppressed (the fact that these are years of the Napoleons invasion of Spain only helps with these ideals). Parts four and five deal with his escape from Spain and the return to Alta California.

I do not want to give too much away, but the story reads like a grand travelogue of adventure, peopled with the famous and not so famous of the period. It is with the descriptions of the environment and understanding of the culture that Isabel Allende shines in her story telling. Los Angeles is painted as a virtual paradise with clear running streams, fields of grassland and clear skies that helps you understand why the Spanish came there. Barcelona is a rich tapestry of culture and heritage. Her descriptions make the city of that period come alive with all the stratas of Spanish Society and the nuances of the city life. His escape across Spain in part four and the return to California in part five have a wealth of the idiosyncrasies that enhance the portrait of the period.

If you are familiar with Isabel Allende’s writing, then you will be pleased that you don’t need a box of Kleenex to read this book. Full of fun and humor but rich in detail and descriptive nuance, her power as a writer is reiterated here. This book is a great summer read that you can put down and pick up again – although you won’t want to. I highly recommend this book to anyone.

-Brad Winans is a sales associate at Neighbors Bookstore.


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