Author: Isabel Allende
Genre: Adult Fiction – Historical Fiction
Review by Eibhlín, Kildare Town Library
About Isabel- A bestselling author and
New York Times bestseller. Isabel was
born in Peru and raised in Chile, she is the author of nine novels, including Inès of My Soul,Daughter of Fortune, and Portrait in Sepia. She has also written a collection of stories, four memoirs, and a trilogy of children’s novels. Her books have been translated into more than twenty-seven languages and have become bestsellers across four continents. In 2004 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Isabel Allende lives in California.
A Long Petal to the Sea
Sometimes, the difficult thing is not to flee but to return. A love letter to Chile that soars from the Spanish Civil War to the rise and fall of Pinochet, and a stunning return to great storytelling heights, A Long Petal of the Sea is the much-awaited new novel from literary legend Isabel Allende.
Victor Dalmau is a young doctor when he is caught up in the Spanish Civil War, a tragedy that leaves his life – and the fate of his country – forever changed. Together with his sister-in-law, the pianist Roser, he is forced out of his beloved Barcelona and into exile.
When opportunity to seek refuge arises, they board a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda to Chile, the promised ‘long petal of sea and wine and snow’. There, they find themselves enmeshed in a rich web of characters who come together in love and tragedy over the course of four generations, destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world.
Available to borrow as an ebook from Bolinda Borrowbox.
Daughter of Fortune
An orphan raised in Valparaiso, Chile, by a Victorian spinster and her rigid brother, vivacious young Eliza Sommers follows her lover to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. Entering a rough-and-tumble world of new arrivals driven mad by gold fever, Eliza moves in a society of single men and prostitutes with the help of her good friend and savior, the Chinese doctor Tao Chi’en. California opens the door to a new life of freedom and independence to the young Chilean, and her search for her elusive lover gradually turns into another kind of journey. By the time she finally hears news of him, Eliza must decide who her true love really is.
Available to borrow as an ebook from Bolinda Borrow Box.
Isabel Allende is a favourite author of mine. Finding it difficult to read during lock down, I went back to an author whose books I’d enjoyed reading through the years. Allende’s debut novel “The House of The Spirits” was published in 1982. It became a bestseller, and was critically acclaimed. She has written 22 books since, 17 of them novels. Her genre for many of her books would be magical realism, post boom literature, autobiographical and family saga. Whilst working as a journalist she interviewed the poet Pablo Neruda and was encouraged by him to write fiction as he said she had too much imagination to remain a journalist. ‘The House of The Spirits’ remains in print to this day.
Her latest book ‘A Long Petal Of The Sea’ shows her ability to weave fact and fiction, family saga, memory and history. She brings us characters that are richly defined in culture, politics, family and country. The book’s title is taken from a poem by Pablo Neruda. Her portrayal of the Spanish Civil war is extraordinary and told from the personal point of view of the characters it is a compelling read. The romance between people and state, unrequited nationalism and events remembered from her own childhood are woven into this story. If you like family sagas, and history, written by a master storyteller you will like this book. The story covers the Spanish Civil War, the escape by 2,000 refugees to Chile arranged by Pablo Neruda, and the rise of fascism in Chile. A story of people and how they got through it. Although it is fiction there are lots of historical facts here. I emerge from this fascinating book with knowledge of the Spanish Civil War that I didn’t have before and am glad of that. The story is beautifully portrayed and the characters are very believable.
‘Daughter of Fortune’ is a story set in the era of the California Gold Rush. Eliza the main character has been raised by a very strict English family in Chile. Her background is unusual but that doesn’t stop her adoptive family from looking for a suitable boy for her to marry. Eliza makes her escape and here the portrayal of life in 1850’s Chile and the Californian Gold Rush come to the fore. From her repressed life in Chile she arrives in California whose newly arrived citizens are gripped by gold fever. It is a journey started because of love for one person but in the following harrowing years she emerges aware of a love of self and others. This is a time and a place where women could lose the corsets and within a short time become part of an equality which emerged in California during and after the Gold Rush. Unfortunately, this equality was an equality of white men and women and in this Allende makes us aware of the race issues of the time.
A stunning author with stories that stay with you. I recommend these two books along with her others, available on Borrow Box here through the County Library Service.