Violeta – Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende’s latest novel is mesmerising and beautifully written with the authentic feel of a memoir. In 2020, in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, Violeta del Valle, now 100 years old and in her last days, writes to her grandson Camilo recounting her life story. Born in Chile in 1920 during the Spanish Flu pandemic, there is a fitting inevitability that a century of war, depression, struggle, discrimination, evil, selflessness, love, loss, illness, joy, and achievement should end at another watershed moment of global catastrophe. Violeta has lived through many joyful and horrific moments, and the complex nature of life is vividly portrayed for Violeta and those she encounters. A life exquisitely captured by the events of her country and Violeta’s journey with family and loved ones. While Chile is never mentioned by name, the geography, location descriptions, and events reflect the true nature of Chile.
The story weaves compelling characters with the history of tumultuous times in Chile, through military coups, authoritarian leadership, revolts, boom and bust economic cycles, and dubious connections to spies, criminals and drug cartels. Violeta spells out the relationships with her children, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbours and the men in her life. Some partners bring her joy, others pain and abuse, but they shape this fascinating woman. Being an astute businesswoman, she had to overcome commercial issues and discrimination that prevented her from directly owning her own business or bank account. She plotted her course with her eldest brother as they grew a successful business keeping the details hidden from the authorities and others.
Isabel Allende is masterful at her characterisation, and the related details are absorbing while never letting the story’s momentum ponder into over-detail. The significant events and range of characters keep this epic story engaging from beginning to end.
To capture a thought in my mind using a famous and appropriate verse:
She loved, laughed and cried
She had her fill, her share of losing
And now, as tears subside
She finds it all so amusing
To think she did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way
Oh no, no, not her
She did it her way
A fabulously entertaining story that I would highly recommend, and I want to thank my Buddy Ceecee for recommending this to me in glowing terms – you are on point as usual. I also want to thank Bloomsbury Publishing, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, and NetGalley for providing a free ARC in return for an honest review.