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Largo pétalo de mar, Isabel Allende

If you haven’t noticed, I am a massive Isabel Allende fan. And after having recommended some of her masterpieces in previous posts, do you blame me?

Largo pétalo de mar was published during the start of the pandemic. The title comes from the famous poet, Pablo Neruda, which describes his beloved homeland, Chile. Although most of Allende’s books take place in Chile, the first part of this novel (which is based on a true story) takes place in Spain and France during the Spanish Civil War. This is not the first time we’ve seen Allende talk about Spain in her novels. In De amor y de sombra (Of Love and Shadows), she alludes to Spain and Franco through one of the main character, Francisco, and his family, who fled to Chile during these trying times in Spain. This novel also shows that story, but from a different perspective: the Dalmau family. This family, like many during this time, faced enough pain and sorrow to fill ten lifetimes, particularly the protagonist, Victor. Yet what is so inspiring about the book isn’t just the characters’ resilience, but how Allende surprises her readers every time. After having read several of Allende’s books, one common theme is the element of surprise – you think you can predict how the plot will unravel yet you are almost constantly taken aback. This is one of the many reasons I love Isabel Allende.

This novel is intense in the best of ways. It’ll move you, shake you to your core and yet you will not be able to put it down. Furthermore, if you are unaware of the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and the Chilean coup d’état in 1973, this story will educate you about the oppressors and the oppressed. For this reason, it is, at times, very difficult to read. However, the ending does make it worth the wait. Another unique part of this book is that every chapter starts with some verses by Pablo Neruda. As a Neruda fan myself, I did not know about the Winnipeg and his instrumental role in helping Spanish refugees settle in Chile. That’s the beauty of Allende: although many of the themes in her novels are the same, she has this uncanny ability to make the narrative unique and special in each work.

Like other novels, you will see glimpses of magical realism. However, this story does make one understand the complexity that is being an immigrant – understanding where you belong and how that shapes your identity. I believe that her experience having fled Chile plays a large part in this novel and is quite convincing. All in all, I strongly recommend this novel. If you love Allende as much as I do, you won’t be disappointed!



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