Tuesday, December 19, 2023


Violeta by Isabel Allende
Author:  Isabel Allende (author). Frances Riddle (translator).
Publication Information:  Ballantine Books. 2022. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0593496205 / 978-0593496206

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  ★★★★

Opening Sentence:  "I came into the world one stormy Friday in 1920, the year of the scourge."

Favorite Quote:  "That fairy tale that all humans are equal before the law and in the eyes of God is a lie, Camilo. I hope you don’t buy into it. Neither the law nor God treats everyone the same."

This book is written as a woman tells her life story in letters to someone she loves. "There’s a time to live and a time to die. In between there’s time to remember. That is all I’ve done for these past days, silently filling in the missing details to complete this testament—a sentimental legacy, more than a material one."

And what a life it is! Set in South America, his story begins with Violeta's birth in 1920 - the first girl in a household of boys. The story travels an entire century to the pandemic in 2020. The novel does not identify the country. the story does not name the country. However, many clues and much of what has been written about the book indicates that it is set in Isabel Allende's homeland of Chile. Although fiction, the book is built on the life of the author's mother, Violeta del Valle, who died early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

On a personal scale, Violeta's story is about love, betrayal, loss, joy, and every emotion that encompasses a life. It is about a woman who finds and creates her own way in the world - from defining her relationship with the men in her life to establishing and growing her own business to creating space for family and love.

One a broader scale, Violeta's story is about a hundred years of history - the flu epidemic, the Depression, Chilean political upheaval, two world wars, the South American community in the United States, all the way forward to the COVID-19 pandemic. I do not know much about Chile and its history. So, I found that context fascinating. It reinforces what I love about historical fiction - an introduction to a history I may not otherwise learn. In some ways, the book is history narrated, but it is entirely through the lens of and the impact on one person. While the history is present, this is very much Violeta's story and only her story.

What makes this book work is the main character. Violeta is not always a likable character and not always one I understand. For example, her story includes a repeated decision to stay in an abusive relationship. Yet, at the same time, she is an independent business woman capable of risk taking and strong decisions. These contradictions make the character more interesting - more "real" if you will. The first person narration, even in letters looking back, places me as the reader in the heart of the story with all the emotional connection that entails. This is the second Isabel Allende book I have read. I look forward to more.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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