Book Review: A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Looking for your next read? Check out A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende, reviewed by Fulco Library staff, Julia R.

Very few authors can write a sweeping tale of family, refugees, love and loss in 300 pages the way Isabel Allende can. Evocative and historical, Allende writes of the Spanish Civil War as if it just ended. Her lyrical narrative transports readers back to 1936 Spain, then across the ocean to Chile and Venezuela, and through the turmoil of South American politics during the Cold War.

Victor Dalmau, his late brother’s wife, Roser, and her baby Marcel, along with Victor’s mother, leave Spain in search of freedom. Once ensconced in Chile, the author weaves a dramatic web of intrigue and longing - for love, for freedom. As events swirl around them and more characters are introduced, a unique multi-layered love story unfolds. Victor and Roser’s marriage of convenience becomes a marriage of deep love and respect.

Each chapter of A Long Petal of the Sea begins with a few lines of poetry by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. In 1939, he arranged for a former cargo ship to take refugees from Spain to Chile, the SS Winnipeg. Neruda becomes a central character in the story’s background and provides subtle hope throughout the narrative. The beauty of his poetry is a salve for the pain of war and the healing power of time.

In Allende’s hands, history’s habit of repeating itself becomes more than a tragic footnote, it becomes a resilient tale of survival. Readers will forget they are reading about events that occurred almost one hundred years ago. Much of the current news about refugees fleeing their home country is mirrored in this novel describing a war from almost one hundred years ago.

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A Long Petal of the Sea

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