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3.44  ·  Rating details ·  476 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Don Victor Sobrevilla, a lovable, eccentric engineer, always dreamed of founding a paper factory in the heart of the Peruvian rain forest, and at the opening of this miraculous novel his dream has come true—until he discovers the recipe for cellophane. In a life already filled with signs and portents, the family dog suddenly begins to cough strangely. A wild little boy tur ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by The Dial Press (first published 2006)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
Rating details
 ·  476 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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Book Concierge
Jan 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in Latin America, literary fiction, allegory and fable.
Wow! When Don Juan decides to make cellophane in his remote jungle paper factory he is unprepared for the result of success. The product’s transparency infects the Don and all those who live on the hacienda; there are plagues of truth and desire as a result. No one has secrets anymore. Passions are revealed. Lies cannot be told. The characters rush to action based on their perceived truths, but no one sees all clearly.

This is a very Latin book with curanderos, tribal wars, jungles, and military
Feb 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Cellophane reads like Gabriel Garcia Marquez story if he wrote in English instead of his native Spanish. Maria Arana brings the beauty of magical realism into the English language. The writing superbly surrounds believable life events in a fantastical aura. The genius in her story telling comes from the different points of view between the story book characters and the resulting comedic misunderstanding between them. The critcs rightly say her comedy is well timed.

The book tells of a man who goe
Matt Howard
Cellophane is a novel, set in Peru, with interwoven themes of love, Christianity, magic and the evil people can do to each other. The book is in the mode of "Love in the Time of Cholera." Reading it, I appreciated the author's inventiveness, admired her use of language, and in the end felt dissatisfied and let down. That's probably as much my fault as hers because I tend to reject books that rely on magic and the supernatural as agents of change unless I'm warned ahead of time that I'm going to ...more
Melissa Giambelluca
Jul 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
Well written, great adventure, developed characters. The story is set in the Amazon jungle where a family-run paper factory has sustained the community. The patriarch seeks guidance from the local priest as well as the medicine man to help him develop clear paper. Sounds dry so far, but love stories, magic, and government intervention make it a great read.
Mai Ling
Aug 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Parts of this book are kind of a slog, but it's all worth it in the end, besides the fact that all the characters are so rich and colorful. I think the book makes me want as much as not want to go to the rainforest, though. Sounds like there's some scary but beautiful stuff there. ...more
Jul 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a new magical realist text, and it is handled quite well. the invention and use of cellophane parallels the stories of this chaotic and quirky family.
Nov 22, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I just didn't get this book. It was Boring, with a capital B. ...more
Eduardo Santiago
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: woc
Charming. Engaging. Thought-provoking. And, most importantly to me, honest.

Over the decades I’ve collected a set of neurotic and semicapricious rules about my reading; rules I’ve discovered, not really invented; patterns I’ve noticed about the books that work for me or don’t. You doubtless have your own. I don’t know if mine are accurate, and I don’t really understand why my brain works the way it does; but one guideline that stands out to me in fiction is that a world must be consistent within
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Cellophane is a rather flamboyant book in the vein of Gabriel Garcia Marquez set it in an exotic setting with very strange characters, maybe too strange? The main character, Don Victor Sobrevilla Paniagua, is obsessed with his fantasy of converting his paper factory to create cellophane from the earthly components that are found the jungle of Peru. In the process, he has to endure three plagues that threatened his jungle kingdom. Add to this mix is the arrival of the army and a worker uprising a ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: human-interest
Loved author’s writing style—so creative, so lyrical, should have taken more time to enjoy the beauty of her prose, but found myself rushing to get finished with the book because I didn’t care for the story—don’t know why—perhaps the eccentricity of the characters?—-which is actually another kudo to the author—of all the authors I’ve read, she has reached the highest level of imagination, creativity in the exploration of interpersonal relationships between those eccentric characters
Shari Mellin
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book defies description, but I will never forget the Paniagua family and all their South American adventures. Like a lot of South American literature, there is some magical realism in this story; the whole thing vibrates like a tuning fork. Excellent read I can recommend if you like the quirky.
Tracy Towley
As other reviewers have noted, this book feels heavily influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If that's a good sign for you then I highly recommend this book. Unfortunately, it wasn't a good thing for this non-fan. While I could see plenty of brilliance shimmering here, in the end it was a slog for me. ...more
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-favorites
Omg, I really liked this book. I am currently writing a book report on it for my Spanish class (so in Spanish. Help)
Feb 17, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a hard book to get into. A bit of fantasy, magic, love, and faith in the jungles of Peru. If there was a point, I missed it.
Kathy Kattenburg
Oh my God, this book is good. And I'd never heard of it before another member of my book club suggested I read it. I'm so glad I did. ...more
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unique book, really liked it
Sep 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: magical-realism
If you don't like magical realism, then you won't like this book. But if you do, then I definitely recommend it. This is the story of an obsessive engineer who builds a paper factory in the middle of the Amazon. When he discovers how to make cellophane, all those who look through, and see the way the truth is both revealed and distorted, are affected irreparably. A plague of tongues, love, and revolution sweep through his house and the Amazon.

The author has a stunning use of language that both t
Susan Hester
Dec 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although somewhat like a soap opera, I mostly liked this book. It was an interesting read from the standpoint of the culture, family, religion and mysticism. About a young boy who becomes fascinated by things mechanical as well as a scrap of cellophane he gets from a gypsy woman when he is young, the main character goes on to become an engineer, a papermaker, whose quest is to produce cellophane. He moves his family to the jungle and develops a large factory providing many jobs to hundreds of wo ...more
This book is definately weird. Sort of like the Isabel Aliende (sp?) books which I did not like at all, but for some reason I am hanging in with this one. It is a slow read for me. It is packed with great vocabulary and it seems like some major bit of info is on each page so I can't skim/speed like I often do. It is set in S Am jungle so I may have more interest in the setting than others. I am not sure yet if I would recommend it to other...definatley read the synopsis before you commit! It too ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
A delightful story that's something of a cross between Like Water for Chocolate and an Isabel Allende novel. Set on the Amazon in the heart of Peru's rain forest, where an engineer builds a paper factory and raises a family, relying on both a Catholic priest and, even more, a local native curandero for spiritual guidance (along with a fortune given by a gypsy fortune-teller when he was a child). When he converts his factory to cellophane production, the family's life undergoes dramatic change: f ...more
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book beautifully written. Like I had said before, it started out very slowly and then sped towards a really intense finish. There were some awesome quotes that I had to note:

How fortunate to be counseled by a cat! Cats are superior creatures, he had said--hard to please, but passionate. Disinterested, but curious. Sedentary, but graceful. (p. 75)

Read your books, darling. Life is better when we imagine it. Infinitely better in our heads. (p. 105)

'It is how you see good and bad that m
Bookmarks Magazine

Marie Arana, editor of Washington Post Book World and author of the memoir American Chica (2001), a finalist for the National Book Award, skillfully balances humor and passion in her engaging debut novel. Critics applaud all aspects of the novel, from setting to characterization to plot to Arana's skill with language, her charming sense of playfulness, and her imagination. They also draw the inevitable comparisons to the work of the South American writers Gabriel Garc"a M

Jan 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cellophane is a rather flamboyant book set it in an exotic setting with very strange characters. The main character, Don Victor Sobrevilla Paniagua, is obsessed with his fantasy of being able to create cellophane from the earthly components that are found the jungle of Peru. When he finally succeeded, he was plagued by an epidemic of truthfulness that threatened to undo his carefully constructed world in the jungle. It seemed that the clarity of the cellophane showed the illusion of their world. ...more
Mar 15, 2012 rated it liked it
This was a beautifully written book and I am glad that I read it, but I can't say that I completely enjoyed it. So much of the story rambled on about seemingly nothing. I found myself not really caring about the characters that weren't being discussed at the time. Maybe there was just too many stories going on at once for me to truly be engaged by the story. After a while I found myself reading just to finish the book, not to find out what was happening next. I did like seeing how Don Victor fou ...more
Feb 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Set in the Peruvian Amazon, the style is very South American. That is to say, there's a small helping of magical realism, the imagery is florid, and the characters are colorful and a little exaggerated. The setting is so vivid that it's almost a character itself. The plot is another strong element. It spans one man's lifetime and a large cast of characters, but the author maintains control of her scope and her momentum right through the end. ...more
Dec 11, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tried-but-failed
Oh my god..... I am returning this book to the shelf because when I contemplated curling up with it last night I heard myself say aloud (I live alone) "I can't take any more." I don't care that the book has won awards from esteemed entities. Maybe I just don't get it. It feels like an amateur or diluted version of Gabriel Garcia Lorca. I'm donating this one to the heart-breakingly bare shelves of my local library. ...more
Sep 01, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worldliterature
A beautifully written story about an engineer who starts a paper factory and later realizes his dream of manufacturing cellophane in the Amazon. His household is overcome by a series of strange plagues, like the one that has everyone telling the truth, as he lives out a fortune given to him by a monkey when he was a boy. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't overwhelmed by the story. ...more
Nov 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had been reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, and this book was required for a class. The similarities in style are definitely noticeable, but Arana retains her own unique flavor and choices. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the magic realism of the Latin American stories, you will NOT be dissappointed.
Dec 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having grown up in Peru and spent a bit of time in the rainforest around Pucallpa, I recognized so many of the characters and situations in the book. Arana delivers the absurdities in such a matter-of-fact manner that I often found myself re-reading certain parts to make sure I had really read what she said. I thoroughly enjoyed this story.
With the words of Marie Arana the magic works; her sentences caused the magical senses with charm and atmosphere. This is a wonderful and colourful picture of a family life and business in the heart of South-America e.g. the Peruvian jungle. Hail the indians (may be I should say natives, but that doesn’t sound positive and special enough). Carefully detailed characters. It caught me, allright. JM
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She was born in Peru, moved to the United States at the age of 9, did her B.A. in Russian at Northwestern University, her M.A. in linguistics at Hong Kong University, a certificate of scholarship at Yale University in China, and began her career in book publishing, where she was vice president and senior editor at Harcourt Brace and Simon & Schuster. For more than a decade she was the editor in ch ...more

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