Member Reviews

Isabel Allende’s latest, A Long Petal of the Sea, takes its name from a term the poet Pablo Neruda gave to his long and narrow coastal birthplace. In this novel, Chile becomes the place of exile for a young couple with a child who have fled the devastation of the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s.

Victor Dalmau served as a medical assistant during the war, and his brother Guillem fought in the war. Roser Bruguera was taking music lessons from their father and eventually came to live with them. She fell in love with Guillem, becoming pregnant by him, and the two planned to marry after the war. Instead, life intervened, and Roser entered a marriage of convenience with Victor and fled the atrocities of Spain with him and her baby Marcel to Chile.

Pablo Neruda sponsors many Spanish exiles to travel to Chile to start a new life in 1939 just as Europe is ready to break out into World War II.

The Dalmaus make a life for themselves in Chile. Victor finishes his education to become a doctor, and Roser plays piano and eventually becomes a professor of music. Marcel grows up in a loving home. Roser and Victor pose for many years as a married couple but they are strictly platonic friends. Victor is distracted by a young Chilean woman, and Roser has her own affair.

For many years, they thrive in Chile, until a military coup overthrows the government, and for some reason, Victor is treated as an enemy. The couple find themselves repeating their experience in Spain and soon enter exile again.

Isabel Allende, bestselling author of The House of the Spirits, has been called "the world's most widely read Spanish-language author.” An exile from Chile herself, Allende infuses the story of Victor and Roser with realism.

My review will be posted on Goodreads starting April 24, 2020.

I’d like to thank Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in return for an objective.

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Once again, Isabel Allende, has written a wonderful historical fiction book. As with her other novels, she deals with south american history and culture. This book also contains stories of Pablo Neuda , the famous Chilean poet. Taking place over the years between the Spanish civil war and the Second World War, the story follows a number of well drawn characters. Four generations of a family move between Spain and South America.
Difficult decisions are made, The book then follows to see the outcomes of those decisions play out in future generations. Of course this is a love story for the ages as men and women come together only to be pulled apart by history, fate, unfortunate circumstances and decisions. A beautifully written work well work reading.

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Allende’s historical saga takes readers to Spain, Chile and Venezuela. The characters of the Dalmau family are vibrant and intriguing. With the help of the famous poet, Pablo Neruda, they flee Spain and the brutal Franco regime and settle in Chile only to become government targets once again and forced to flee a second time to Venezuela. The book is rich with drama and the family members are resilient, doing whatever they must to survive.

The historical details are richly interwoven in the plot, making the book even more compelling. Allende includes real people and events like Neruda and his efforts to save Spaniards by organizing the ship Winnipeg to carry the refugees to Chile.

Victor and Roser Dalmau are a family brought together by need. What starts out as a partnership built out of necessity, becomes more over the years. The characters are carefully crafted and real. Their persecution in both Spain and Chile represents the suffering thousands endured and Allende skillfully demonstrates survival in tumultuous times.

Great writing, sensitive dynamics and adherence to authentic events combine to make this an outstanding story of political unrest and the determination of the human spirit.

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It starts off slow and kind of dense, but once the action begins, it's hard to resist the story as it drives forward. It reads as a true epic, one that makes you feel the world really has been reshaped as you read it. Would recommend.

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"I have contacts, I'll see if I can get some things for you." "Such as what?" "Toilet paper, for example. There's a patient who sometimes brings me rolls of toilet paper as a gift." "Goodness! That's more precious than gold, Victor." As I sit in my house to help flatten the curve of Covid-19 I found these words to be amusingly apt! Allende tells this story of families and love, she keeps us on the knife edge of political tension and uncertainty. Victor was a Republican in the Spanish Civil War, right before World War II, he enters into a marriage to keep his family together. In Chile, he finds himself under the spell of Pablo Neruda and once again embroiled in political conflict.

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Allende’s latest novel follows the main characters from young adulthood to old age. Most of the tale takes place in South America, to the extent that Chile and its political history almost rise to the status of another character. We first meet Victor, Guillem and Roser in Spain along with some of the lesser, but recurring, characters. The Spanish Civil War (late 1930s) is the context in which we discover the characters’ personalities and political viewpoints. Throughout the remainder, we watch them age as these core values play out in different circumstances and relationships. The historical figures that wind their way through the story add grounding and context.

In order to qualify as refugees and be sponsored for the transport to Chile, Victor and Roser agree to marry and commit themselves to raise Victor’s nephew, Roser and Guillem’s son. We witness the transformation of this marriage of necessity and convenience into a loving partnership in which they remain strong and loyal trough much adversity, both physical and political challenges.

This skillful weaving of history and story makes this a book for our times. It brings us insight into how political struggles between authoritarian and democratic styles of governing play out. We witness the immediate effects of these struggles on society and on the characters as they deal with depression, hope, exile, divided loyalty, faith, surpicion, hardship.

A Long Petal of the Sea is an ambitious book that succeeds on many levels. It begins slowly, laying down the background and immersing the reader into the culture and milieu. Stick with it, the rich storyline and fully realized characters are your reward. There is much to enjoy, much to ponder.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an advance copy of the book for my enjoyment.

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This is a love story that begins during the Spanish Civil War and follows the Dalmau family to Chile, where they seek refuge. Dosed and Victor survive the horrific war and prosper in their new adopted country. Isabel Allene writes another engrossing story that captivates the reader until the end.

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Classic storytelling by one of the best. Isabel Allende manages to carry the novel through both the Spanish Civil War and Chile's 1970s military dictatorship with a vivid cast of characters and tangled family dynamics. Realistic details are juxtaposed with well-rendered scenery. Sometimes I yearned for more direct dialogue and conversation between characters, rather than summarized storytelling. Thats 4 stars, instead of 5. A welcome addition to any historical fiction library.

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Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Learned so much about the history of Spain and Chile through this time period. And was captivated by the personal histories of the main characters. Thank you netgalley for a review copy.

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I was not very knowledgeable re: the Spanish Civil War before reading this book. It was rich in historical detail and very atmospheric. I learned so much and the excellent storyline was a bonus.
Many thanks to Ballantine Books and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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I have enjoyed so many of Isabel Allende’s novels, especially her earlier works. “A Long Petal of the Sea” is a historical multi-generational family saga that showcases Allende’s finest storytelling talents. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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A Long Petal of the Sea takes its title from a poem by Pablo Neruda who uses these words in a description of his beloved country, Chile. Each chapter begins with lines from one of his poems and he is a character in this novel about the Spanish Civil War. Following the war, Neruda, who was an ambassador to France, helped many Spaniards flee to Chile. The characters in this book had participated in the war, against the Fascists under Franco. Victor Dalmau was a medical student who worked as a doctor for the Republicans. After joining the Republican army in 1936, he found he was more useful at helping the wounded than carrying a rifle. Not so, Guillem, his fiery brother.

Roser was a young woman studying music who had come to live with Victor’s parents and who fell passionately in love with Guillem. She and Victor survive the war and make their way to France in a long walk over the mountains in the winter. With the help of friends and smugglers, they arrive in France and with Neruda’s help sail for Chile where they must begin new lives.

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As my first Allende novel, I was very impressed with the way I was immediately swept into the story and lives of the characters. Their construction in the beginning of the novel was so detailed I felt they were readily known to the reader. Part one felt a little overwhelming given the volume of characters we meet and the sprawl of the plot itself, though this definitely started coming together more as the book progressed into part two. Towards the end, while the plot was very well developed, I felt at times that so much was happening (in terms of years traversed) that we were being told as readers, rather than left to experience this movement with the characters, that left me feeling a bit disconnected from them toward the end.

This was really masterful historical fiction, and Victor and Roser particularly stood out to me as memorable and beautifully developed characters.

Many thanks to Random House for a review copy.

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Isabel Allende's latest novel is a beautiful love tale set against the brutal wars of the early 1900 up until ou recent history. The stiry begins in 1938 oserand introduces Victor Dalman. While working to help the many injured he sees on young boy severally injured and lying on a stretcher withhis heart completly exposed, He inserts his three fingers in the wound squeezs and thenfeels the heart coming back to life. This is a turning moment in his life. Through his many travels into many countries and various times imprisoned in camps and/or prisons he remains strong and committed to medicine and saving others.
There are any deaths inhis life ,separations and homes in different countries. HIs brother Guilllemis killed by te Fascists. He leaves behind him his pregnant girl friend Roser. When VIctor meets her he feels they must leaave Spain and find a safer place to live. Eventually they settle in Chile and Victor becomes the father to his brother and Roser's son.
They remain together until her death but have many other adventures and at on time live in Venezuela. The book has a surprise ending but I won'tevenhint at it. This is a wonderful story told how a couple manage t live through several wars, many deaths and prisons but still remain alive and love each other.

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I went into this book knowing a bit about the Spanish Civil War and nothing at all about Chile. Generally, when I'm reading historical fiction, it inspires me to get online and research the details about the actual historical events behind the story. That didn't happen when reading this until about 2/3 into it when Salvador Allende came into power and I began to research the relationship between him and the author. I'll save you the research, her father was a first cousin of Salvador Allende, President of Chile from 1970 to 1973. Even after finding this interesting and also finding that the author is now 77 so she obviously has years of life and history to pull from in writing this about her native country, Chile, I couldn't manage to love this story as I had hoped. There was a tremendous amount of historical information included but sometimes, it seemed haphazardly thrown in. Lots of moments where it felt like a story being told by someone where they consistently throw in that random tidbit of info that really doesn't add to the story but rather detracts because you're wondering what that had to do with it, is it relevant, and if I never really fell in love with any of the characters in this story either. I wanted to but it just didn't happen. While this seems like a very negative review, the historical information, and especially from the perspective of someone who was distantly related to one of the real-life characters in the book was interesting. I would have probably enjoyed it more if I'd done more research upfront about Chile's history and would strongly encourage other readers to do so. I received a copy of this book through #NetGalley. #AlongPetalOfTheSea

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Renowned author Allende (In the Midst of Winter) unites war’s refugees in a marriage of convenience that takes them on an emotional journey leading to profound love. Victor Dalmau, a medic in the Spanish Civil War, weds Roser Bruguera and becomes a father to Marcel, her child fathered by his deceased brother Guillem. With nothing left for them in Spain, they emigrate to Chile and start anew.

Though their relationship remains chaste for years, and Victor becomes enamored with Chilean socialite, Ofelia, he refuses to leave Roser and Marcel, determined to love and care for them. Roser eventually gains employment as a music professor, and Victor continues his medical training and becomes a physician.

The thematic element of political unrest is at the heart of this novel, from the disorder in Spain under Franco to the turmoil in Chile under Pinochet. And simmering below the surface of the unrest is the narrative of Roser and Victor, who are determined to survive against the odds and overcome the obstacles that fate has thrown in their way.

Lyrical and rich with historical detail, Allende’s latest is a study of how circumstances shape humanity. She expertly relates history’s tumultuous events to the personal experiences of those whose lives were forever changed by them.

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Great book. Amazing characters. The story was complex, epic, with a lot of depth. Read if you love character-driven historical fiction.

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Isabel Allende is a master story teller, blending history and fiction, painting a picture of a different time and place with masterful brush strokes, while writing characters and words that stay with the reader, long after we close the book. This time around she tells the story of Victor Dalmau and Roser Bruguera. Caught up in the Spanish Civil War and the atrocities of General Francisco Franco, they are forced to flee Spain for France, and eventually make it to Chile with the help of Pablo Neruda. Spanning form 1938 to 1994 the ebb and flow, the triumphs and failures of these two and their family paint a picture of the immigrants life and trials. The strength and courage it takes to leave everything behind you and start again in an unknown world shows the resilience of the human spirit.

Readers will not be able to but draw the lines between the events of the past and what is happening around the world today. Beautifully written with a strong sense of time and place, with lyrical prose and well-developed characters. Readers of all sorts will be drawn to this novel and it is sure to be picked up by book clubs for a lively and timely book discussion.

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Once again Isabel Allende brings us a well researched, emotional, and heartfelt book. At the beginning of A Long Petal of the Sea she writes of the 1930s civil war in Spain. Deaths and tragedies occur, exile is the only choice, yet love blooms. I was totally drawn into this marvelous book. I will highly recommend A Long Petal of the Sea to my book clubs.

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I hated reading and learning about history while in school. The dates and facts never stayed with me. Now, I try to make up for everything that I didn’t learn in school by reading historical fiction.

In my choices in historical fiction, I still try to stick to subjects that sound like they might be interesting to me, like seamstresses sewing the Queen’s gown.

I’m ashamed to say that before reading this book, I knew nothing about the Spanish Civil War. It didn’t sound at all like anything that I would be interested in, but I ended up loving this book.

Yes, you learn all about the Spanish Civil War, but it’s all presented around such strong characters. It’s the story of what people do to survive. The human spirit. The human drive.

The book centers around the two main characters, Roser and Victor Dalmour. Roser is pregnant and is the wife of Victor’s brother. They are fleeing Spain, heading for the French border, after General Franco has taken over.

From there we follow them through a winding incredible journey. From concentration camps to Chile to Venezuela.

Such a good read!

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