Violeta is born at the time of the Spanish flu epidemic in 1920. The book recounts her life story in the form of a letter written one hundred years later at the end of her life, which coincides with the 2020 COVID pandemic.
This is an enjoyable read, with a parade of unique characters. The Scotsman says “Isabel Allende is a very fluent novelist. Her books rattle along, and make for easy and enjoyable reading”. Kirkus thinks the book is “A slog even Allende fans may have trouble getting through” but I thought that comment was a bit harsh. Sometimes there are jarring gaps in the timeline, from one chapter to the next, and the reader needs to be careful not to lose the flow of the narrative.
Check out the post about The Long Petal of the Sea by the same author.
“The world is paralyzed, and humanity is in quarantine. It is a strange symmetry that I was born in one pandemic and will die during another.”
“No nation had wanted to report the true number of deaths. Only Spain, who had remained neutral in the conflict, shared news of the illness, which is why it ended up being called the Spanish influenza.”
“And so began the second phase of my life, which our family referred to as Exile, with a capital “E.” For me it was a period of discovery. I’d spend the next nine years in that semi-uninhabited province in the south, which is now a tourist destination, a landscape of vast cold forests, snowy volcanoes, emerald lakes, and raging rivers, where anyone with a hook and line can fill a basket with trout, salmon, and turbot in under an hour. The wide skies were an ever-changing spectacle, a symphony of colors, clouds pulled quickly along by the wind, bands of wild geese, and sometimes the outline of a condor or eagle in majestic flight. Night there fell suddenly, like a black blanket embroidered with millions of lights, which I learned to identify by both their classical and indigenous names.”
Author: Isabel Allende