Review: A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Carme had said on more than one occasion that is she died in Chile she wished to be buried in Spain, where her husband and son Guillem were laid to rest, but if she died in Spain she wanted to be buried in Chile, to be near the rest of her family. Why? Well, just to cause trouble, she would say with a laugh. And yet, it wasn’t simply a joke, it was the anguish of divided love, separation, of living and dying far from one’s loved ones.

A Long Petal of the Sea

Summary and Thoughts

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.

Starting 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. 

—- Goodreads

Much like how my cutesy book cover drawing cannot express the beauty of the actual book cover, so am I at a loss for words in describing the magnitude of time, culture, and humanity Allende captures in this stunning novel. A herculean effort to capture the Spanish Civil War, Chilean political unrest, and the personal arcs of the main characters we follow who endure through both, this book displays Allende’s great strength in creating another masterful epic that feels much longer than the 316 pages it’s allotted for (and I mean that in the best of ways). Though at times I found myself at bit overwhelmed by the political and military language and information being relayed throughout the story, overall, I deeply enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others (after, of course, The House of Spirits). Read it for the history, the language, and the obvious love Allende has for Chile!

Photo Courtesy of Goodreads

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