Violeta – Isabel Allende

Published By: Bloomsbury
Pages: 336
Released On: 25/01/2022

Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first girl in a family of five boisterous sons. From the start, her life will be marked by extraordinary events, for the ripples of the Great War are still being felt, even as the Spanish Flu arrives on the shores of her South American homeland almost at the moment of her birth.

Through her father’s prescience, the family will come through that crisis unscathed, only to face a new one as the Great Depression transforms the genteel city life she has known. Her family loses all and is forced to retreat to a wild and beautiful but remote part of the country, There, she will come of age, and her first suitor will come calling.

She tells her story in the form of a letter to someone she loves above all others, recounting devastating heartbreak and passionate affairs, times of both poverty and wealth, terrible loss and immense joy. Her life will be shaped by some of the most important events of history: the fight for women’s rights, the rise and fall of tyrants, and, ultimately, not one but two pandemics.

*****

Thanks to Bloomsbury for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I like the writing style of this book, telling a story through a letter. It gives a personal touch and we find ourselves discovering things at the same rate as the letter’s recipient, almost in real time.

I won’t give the plot away, but the opening scenes detailing the 1920 Spanish Flu pandemic were scarily close to home. It’s amazing what they went through then compared to what we have available now, even if it is in a fictional setting.

There’s a lovely relationship between the two generations of 100-year-old Violeta and her grandson. This book explores relationships in all its guises – parents, children, friends, lovers, staff, strangers – and how they carry with us through our lives, the good relationships and the bad.

I have been vocal before about my love of short chapters, and my dislike for long rambling sections. I like to read to the end of a chapter, and when there’s another 50 pages before you get there, it’s a bit off-putting. But I’m going to go against my own view this time. This book split into sections, within which are separate chapters. I feel it would have benefitted from just being one long story to match the letter format, as we don’t often split letters into chapters.

It felt so real, like I was reading some real-life expose. It is a fictional tale set amongst some of the most powerful true events. There were definitely some scenes I found more interesting and more engaging than others, but overall I found there was a little bit of magic running through the veins of this book.

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