Cover Image: A Long Petal of the Sea

A Long Petal of the Sea

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Member Reviews

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende is an excellent novel that deals with many different topics entwined into one family’s journey. The characters were very authentic and as the reader I could feel myself caring about them deeply. I also learned about the Spanish Civil War, the uprising in Chili and the actions of the country of Venezuela. Several of the characters are gravely mistreated during the course of these uprisings. There is also the humanity of the characters in this novel who love others and experience loss as the war and uprisings continue. There is even a discussion of corruption within the Catholic Church in these countries. I actually stayed up until 1am finishing this novel because I just had to see what would happen. Overall this is a very enjoyable novel!

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Allende’s fluidly written saga conveys her deep familiarity with the events she depicts, and her intent to illustrate their human impact in a moving way. The scope spans most of the lives of Victor Dalmau, a Republican army medic in 1936 Spain, and Roser Bruguera, a music student taken in by Victor’s family and, later, his brother Guillem’s lover and the mother of Guillem’s child. The story follows them over nearly sixty years, beginning with the tumult of the Spanish Civil War. Guillem is killed fighting against the Fascists, news that Victor can’t bear to tell Roser initially. After surviving separate and terrible circumstances that leave them refugees in France, where authorities treat them with contempt and worse, the two marry for practical reasons in order to join Pablo Neruda’s mission transporting over 2000 Spanish exiles to Chile aboard the S.S. Winnipeg. In Santiago, the Dalmaus find many Chileans sympathetic to the Spaniards, while others make them unwelcome.

With a poetic title coming from a poem of Neruda’s referring to Chile as “a long petal of sea and wine and snow,” the novel prompts readers to reflect on the timely themes of cultural adaptation and political refugees’ shared experiences across eras and continents. It also illustrates Victor and Roser’s unusual marriage, which begins out of duty, ripens into affection and mutual admiration, and transforms into something more. Allende frequently steps away from her characters to relay the larger historical picture, as in this memorable passage: “The exodus from Barcelona was a Dantesque spectacle of thousands of people shivering with cold in a stampede that soon slowed to a straggling procession traveling at the speed of the amputees, the wounded, the old folks and the children.” Incidents from the Dalmaus’ lives are sometimes recited rather than shown, which can be distancing, but Allende’s storytelling abilities are undeniable.

(from the Historical Novels Review, Feb 2020)

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3.5 stars

An impactful offering from the historical fiction artist, Isabel Allende. She skillfully transports readers this time to the fallout of the Spanish Civil War and creates such compassion for and investment in the characters that a reader is left with a genuine sense of loss when the book concludes.

The wide scope of this one does create some segments that tend to be less engaging than others, Also, the smooth, flowing English prose of Allende’s earlier works is missing, replaced with some choppy, repetitive sentence patterns. I assume this is due to the work of the translators. Regardless, Allende has created a work that is well worth reading.

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A Long Petal of the Sea is more similar to some of Allende's earlier books, and to me, that's a good thing! It is rich in historical detail-you will learn about the Spanish revolution, the plight of the refugees who fled after Franco rose to power, and the history of Chile. Allende masterfully weaves together these historical details with the story of her main characters, Roser and Victor, and how they came to be intertwined in each others' lives. What's particularly interesting about this book is that I've been told that Allende based it on the true story of a friend of hers who immigrated to Chile at this time. I really enjoyed this book!

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Isabel Allende wrote a very interesting fiction book based on the Spanish Civil War and the Chilean Civil War. I came close to DNF’ing this due to the factual way it was written but am glad I didn’t.

The characters were very interesting with lives outside any I could ever imagine. Going through one countries upheaval, surviving the journey out of the country and the refugee camps was very realistic and with just enough drama to be enthralling. Then the relocation into the country of Chile, to go through another coup in that country and having to leave for a while but then return. Fascinating book using parts of poetry from Pablo Neruda to introduce each chapter.

The title comes from the shape of the Chilean country which becomes Victor and Roser Dalmau’s home and life. Both are.people that live to help and make life better for others. Both are super talented and intelligent people. This book spans three generations though it’s the middle generation that has most of the focus.

This is a book that if you like historical fiction, you will love.
#netgalley #alongpetalofthesea #isabelallende

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Allende has written a fictionalized history of her beloved Chile, and especially that group of Spaniards fleeing almost certain death from Franco’s Fascist regime, who are able to emigrate to Chile thanks to Pablo Neruda’s arranged ship, the Winnipeg.

Two families, the del Solars and the Dalmaus, are intertwined against the backdrop of 20th century Spanish and Chilean history, class struggles, of privilege and poverty, and Marxism and social democracy. She effortlessly educates us while holding us enthralled in the unfurling lives of these two families, their secrets and an unanticipated surprise ending. No two of the books I’ve read by Allende are like another and in this one she has hit it right out of the ballpark.

During the 1980s I met a woman at the University where I worked who returned home to Chile on spring break. She returned with tales of horror, of the unregulated military that spread fear and terror, of hiding under a bed in her mother’s house while listening to soldiers shouting and shooting in the streets. That’s when I learned who Pinochet was. Later she formed home visits like Avon parties to expose us, her peers to the desaparecidos and the families who mourned them. Women had stitched pillows with the names of their lost loved one and they were available for us to purchase to raise money and awareness. It seemed like so little to ask for so great a need.

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I was drawn to this book for many reasons some of which are 1) I have enjoyed other works by the author 2) I wanted to know more about the Spanish Civil War 1936-39, including the aftermath, which is the reason the novel is primarily set in Chile 3) Pablo Neruda, poet and diplomat 4) the cover and the title. I loved the bits which included Neruda, as well as the brief descriptions of the political rivalries in Spain and Chile, but as I finished, the plot just hadn't evolved into the book I was hoping for. Although I now have a concept of the sequence of the various political groups that came to power in Spain and Chile, I wanted more history, more background, and more emotion. In the Acknowledgements, the author states “the book wrote itself, as if dictated to me”, and that may be the problem. The plot read like a series of entries in a decades long diary--this happened, then this happened, this group was in power, and then the other group, she thought, he thought. The characterizations of Pablo Neruda, Juana, and Felipe had life in them, but I was not invested in any of the main characters, and I should have been, since they lived through war, refugee camps, new countries, careers, and polically dangerous times in search of a home and a meaningful life. However, I am inspired to contnue reading about the Spanish Civil War , refugees,and the historical political climate in the South American countries. Thank you to Netgalley and Ballantine Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, for the opportunity to read this title.

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Pain is inevitable in this world. But what separates us as humans is how we react and respond to the relentless waves that pound against us in their fury. Who we become upon reaching the other side is telling in itself.

Isabel Allende is a masterful narradora........a Chilean storyteller with an amazing experiential background. Born in Lima, Peru, she has lived through Latin American unrest. In A Long Petal of the Sea, Allende will focus on the horrendous impact upon the people because of the Spanish Civil War beginning in 1936. There are parallels with Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls that was inspired by his years as a war correspondent in Spain. You feel it, you see it, and you live it.

A Long Petal of the Sea opens the door to 1938 in Spain and focuses on several families who have been caught up in the midst of the country's civil war. General Francisco Franco and his forces wish Spain to return to its imperial glories of the past. With his high and mighty mindset, he rules with an iron fist and spreads terror. Thousands of his own countrymen are slaughtered for speaking out and rising up against him. His atrocities are felt by the Lincoln Brigade of Americans who came to assist. Over 9,000 Americans are buried on Spanish soil.

The aforementioned families include two brothers, Victor and Guillen Dalmau, whose lives we will track through Allende's outstanding writing. Survival will mean escaping Spain for France and then to South America, in particular Chile, through the appeal of the poet Pablo Neruda. Without Neruda's help more Spaniards would have died at the hands of Franco.

Allende's characters are so complex as their lives unfold. It's here that many readers will feel the intricacies of Allende's story and it may bog down at times with the weight of it. But this is Allende's gift for detail at which she excels so well. You will readily feel the frustrations and hope's deadends through her storytelling.

A Long Petal of the Sea takes you to a place in history where you may have little or no experience. Compassion brews upward from allowing yourself to feel and experience another's pain. War and civil unrest create the sorrowful situations of people on the move seeking a far better existence and forcing themselves to rebuild their lives under dire circumstances. Resilience comes with guarding your heart while taking on the mantle of a new identity.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Ballantine Books (Random House) and to the highly talented Isabel Allende.

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In A Long Petal of the Sea, Isabel Allende tells the story of a family who flees the Spanish Civil War and ends up living for most of their lives in Chile. It tells the story of both the Spanish Civil War as well as the atrocities of Pinochet's regime. I found this to be an engaging story. I appreciate how it tells the stories of conflicts that continue to be overlooked today. I also appreciated the character development. However, I often felt that the story was a bit rushed, especially in the second and third acts. I also felt like it was weird to have Salvador Allende as a character, since he was a relative of the author. Overall, though, it is an interesting piece of historical fiction.

I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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It's been a long time since I have read a book by Isabel Allende so when I saw she had a new book, I was eager to read it. A Long Petal of the Sea is an epic family saga which takes place at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and continues to the mid 1990's. A story about love, hope and survival that I found fascinating. This was a very enjoyable book.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.

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Isabel Allende is a favorite author of mine and I was thrilled to get an ARC of this book. This story begins with the Spanish civil war and unfolds through the years as the main characters (Victor and Roser) commit to an immigrant life of uncertainty, pain, and loss as well as love, home and the idea of family. Allende always interweaves a sweeping generational story with a little-known historical backdrop. This particular story offers the reader a glimpse into the story of immigrants during a tumultuous time of political power jockeying. The reader gets a glimpse into the lives of families who are torn apart and brought together through the decisions that their country makes for them as well as the ones they make on their own. This is a story about hearts – literally and figuratively. Keeping hearts alive, beating and connected to the people and places we all call home. You will be drawn into the human story and be left wanting to know more about that time in our world’s history.
#NetGalley #ALongPetaloftheSea

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I've only read a couple of Isabel Allende's books, but I enjoy her style. A Long Petal of the Sea is well researched and taught me much about a period of history I knew virtually nothing about. Enjoyable -- as predicted.

The book begins in Spain, during the Civil War in the late 1930s. Victor Dalmau is a medic fighting for the Republican government, which ends up being overthrown by Francisco Franco and his Fascists. Roser is pregnant with Victor's brother's child, and she flees over the mountains into France.

They end up on a ship bound for Chili which has agreed to take some Spanish refugees. The ship has been chartered by Pablo Neruda, the famous poet. In order for Victor and Roser to be included on the ship, they must be married. So they get married, vowing to get a divorce as soon as possible. Turns out divorce is illegal in Chile, and anyway, Victor has vowed to be a father to his nephew, Marcel.

The rest of the book, ending in 1994, covers Victor's and Roser's lives, through repression, separations, government uprisings, friendships, and romances. All the time they hoped they could return to their beloved Spain at some point. (Franco didn't die until 1975.) I won't tell you if they ever did.

I feel rather stupid, because as a high school student I hosted an exchange student from Chile in early 1980, and had no idea of the political climate of that country. I don't remember asking her a thing about it. Who cares when you are 17 years old??? She wanted to be a journalist, and I do remember that it was probably a very dangerous career to choose at that time. I heard from her in 1982, and then never again...

I find Allende's use of the third person to be effective. Often, I have difficulty getting into the story if it isn't in the first person. But somehow, even with many passages about history, I find myself fascinated.

A Long Petal of the Sea is a long book (it seemed longer than 336 pages), but if you are interested in history and an epic family story, you will surely enjoy it.

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A novel that can draw you in to the time, place, and characters is truly amazing. Ms Allende takes the reader from the Spanish civil war to the Chilean coup following the lives of a family from Spain who find themselves displaced a couple of times due to political upheaval. Even though there is a lot of political thought involved, it is very informative and necessary to drive the characters and their actions. Since it is based on fact, the emotions felt by and situations faced by the main characters are doubly powerful.

Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the ARC to read and review.

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"Our country is divided into irreconcilable groups, son. Friends are fighting, families are split down the middle; it’s impossible to talk to anyone who doesn’t think as you do."

Isabel Allende has returned to her roots, and to our deep shared humanity to write "A Long Petal of the Sea.” The novel traces a long arc from the Spanish Civil War through the dictatorship in Chile. She tells the story of Victor Dalmau, his life’s works and loves.

This is a beautiful book, and reminds this reader that whatever the political hardships of the moment, a deep abiding humanity has the potential to redeem the world.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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One thing I love about reading is the vicarious thrill you get from being immersed in situations beyond your own experiences. Allende's latest book of historical fiction first takes us to Spain in the 1930s where we experience the Spanish Civil War firsthand through the lives of the Dalmau family and later their desperate escape to France when all hope is lost and General Francisco Franco grasps controls of their country. Eventually, with the help of poet Pablo Neruda and the ship of hope named The Winnipeg he has arranged to transport refugees of the war, the Dalmau family makes it to Chile just as the Second World War begins back in Europe. They have great hopes of starting over in this new country on a new continent, but even here, politics continue to make life unstable and precarious.

One part sounded a warning, even for us in the U.S., of the need for compromise, as mother and son discuss the political situation in Chile in the 1970s:
"What we saw in Spain can happen here." Mother warns.
"Allende says there'll never be fratricidal conflict here. The government and people will prevent it." replies her son.
"That comrade of yours is too naive by half. Chile is divided into irreconcilable groups, son. Friends are fighting, families are split down the middle; it's impossible to talk to anyone who doesn't think as you do. I don't see many of my old friends anymore so that we don't fight."

Sound familiar?

Although Allende's story is fictional, it is based on historical fact and she peoples it with several historical figures such as Neruda and Salvador Allende. But it is the characters she imagines that are the most touching as we follow the Dalmau family through their lives full of turmoil but also great love.

The title of the book comes from Neruda's definition of Chile 'as a long petal of sea and wine and snow...with a belt of back and white foam.' Each chapter begins with a bit of Neruda's poetry--very lovely.

I was fortunate to be given an arc of Allende's new book by the publisher via netGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to them for the opportunity.

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This is not Allende’s best. The beginning was masterful, but Allende ran out of steam about two thirds of the way through. I wonder if it would have been a better book told from the point of view of one of the strong female characters.

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"A Long Petal of the Sea" by Isabel Allende is available this Tuesday 1/21/20!

Synopsis: This novel takes place in Spain, post civil war, where Roser and Victor flee to Chile in the late 1930's leaving behind the beginning of World War II. The story follows a pregnant Roser who has lost the love of her life and Victor, her love's brother, who marries her to give her child a legitimate father.

Review: I loved the premise of this book and the setting was not one I had read before which excited me. It started out well as we follow the doctor, Victor, and his work in the civil war. Once the brother passed, I struggled to connect with the characters and felt the story dragged and lacked life and excitement. I wanted to like it more but this one just wasn't for me. That being said, this has great reviews so I think I may be in the minority here and that cover is so beautiful it makes you want to purchase the book for that alone.

Thank you to NetGalley and Ballentine Books for the opportunity to read an advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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This was a beautiful piece! I am partial to historical fiction, but I just loved how Isabel told this story and how it was about a war we don't often see a lot of historical fiction based upon.

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It pains me to write this review because I love love LOVE Isabel Allende. But her latest, highly anticipated book is simply trying to do too much. It spans from 1938 to 1994, and while I’ve read other books that have covered a long time period successfully, this one did not. The deep dives into so much history of so many places - the Spanish Civil War, the refugees’ flight, Pablo Neruda’s ship to Chile, and then the leftist government followed by the repressive right-wing dictatorship in Chile - it was just far too big in scope for one novel. The character development suffered in favor of detailed explanations of socioeconomic dynamics and biographical details of famous figures in each of these periods in history. The research that went into this novel is impressive, but it would have benefited if it had focused on only one of the many historical events it covers - the poet Pablo Neruda’s intervention to save refugees and bring them to Chile, for example. Or focus more on the plot of the characters’ lives over that entire period, but leave the history as background. The epic attempt to cover the scope of main characters’ entire lives while also describing historical events in detail fell flat. I would also raise potential issues of depicting Salvador Allende’s presidency in such a positive light when the author is ~related to him~. Something to be aware of, at least.

I also had a major problem with the pacing. The best pages were the ones where specific scenes between characters played out. But many times we jumped years ahead in just a couple sentences and it took me a minute to realize and to follow.

I recommend this book if you’re interested in learning about Spanish and Chilean history and politics and don’t mind losing the depth of characters’ lives in order to do so. If you’re unfamiliar with Isabel Allende’s work, I recommend picking up one of her older books first/instead.

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Over sixty years that saw unparalleled social and political upheaval, Allende traces the story of one family from civil war Spain to Chile, Venezuela, and back again. This story is a lyrical account that takes stock of what different kinds of love looks like. Whether it lasts a few months or a lifetime. love is what traces the peaks and valleys of our hearts, and Allende beautifully captures the consequences different kinds of love can have on individuals and entire families.

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