Title: A Long Petal of the Sea
Author: Isabel Allende
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: January 21, 2020
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "In the late 1930s, civil
war gripped Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in
overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in
a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among
them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life irreversibly
intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother
of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a
marriage neither of them wants, and together are sponsored by poet Pablo
Neruda to embark on the SS Winnipeg along with 2,200 other refugees in
search of a new life. As unlikely partners, they embrace exile and
emigrate to Chile as the rest of Europe erupts in World War.
over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning. Over the
course of their lives, they will face test after test. But they will
also find joy as they wait patiently for a day when they are exiles no
more, and will find friends in the most unlikely of places. Through it
all, it is that hope of being reunited with their home that keeps them
going. And in the end, they will find that home might have been closer
than they thought all along."
My Two Cents:
"A Long Petal of the Sea" is the latest from prolific author, Isabel Allende. I will read anything by her and she's definitely at her best when she's in her historical fiction element. After the Spanish Civil War, wonderful Chilean poet Pablo Neruda came to Spain to personally select Spanish refugees to come live in Chile, which was going through its own social change at the time. Victor, a man who saw a lot during the war, and his sister-in-law Roser, a young woman who had a difficult childhood and is a talented pianist, maneuver their way on to the ship that will take them to their new home. This book covers a wide swath of history in Chile from the mid 20th century through almost the end of the century.
There are authors who I will read anything by, no matter what it is. Isabel Allende is one of those for me. And this is Allende at her best - she is so good at finding these little known stories of history and turning them into something full and wonderful. I had no idea about Pablo Neruda's involvement with getting Spanish refugees to Chile. What makes this story special is that the story is personal for Allende (you have to read the acknowledgements) and this makes the story feel even more enveloping.
Historical fiction can shed light on things that you have no idea about - it draws me to it every time because of that. I really love all of the detail that Allende packs in. We see the chaos in Spain as a new, harsher government takes over. We can feel what it must have been like to make such a long journey to the unknown by boat. We see how Victor and Roser make a new life under some interesting circumstances (I don't want to give anything away). I really liked reading about how Chile was changing at the time. Both Victor and Roser are somewhat involved in the government dealings in their new homeland as Chile finds its footing. It was great to get this front row seat to so many changes.
This was a really great story that kept me reading! These characters will stick with me for a long time.