One extraordinary woman.
One hundred years of history.
One unforgettable story.
[ About the Book ]
Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first daughter in a family of five boisterous sons. From the start, her life is 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.
In a letter to someone she loves above all others, Violeta recounts devastating heartbreak and passionate affairs, times of both poverty and wealth, terrible loss and immense joy, and a life 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. Through the eyes of a woman whose unforgettable passion, determination, and sense of humour will carry her through a lifetime of upheaval, Isabel Allende once more brings us an epic that is both fiercely inspiring and deeply emotional.
[ My Review ]
Violeta by Isabel Allende was published on January 25th with Bloomsbury and is described as ‘an epic that is both fiercely inspiring and deeply emotional.’
Violeta is the story of Violeta del Valle, written as a letter from grandmother to grandson, although this is only made clear further on in the chapters. She is recalling her life over the previous one hundred years, a life that bore witness to many major events in the nation’s history. Born in South America during the Spanish Flu in 1920, she is now cocooning during the current Covid crisis, a life bookended by pandemics. With her mortality very much to the fore, Violeta wants her grandson to know all the finer details of her life, one that saw much suffering and experienced many hardships.
Violeta was part of a wealthy family but when the financial tide turned her father buckled under the strain, leaving Violeta’s mother with no alternative but to move the family away from the city. Her mother was a sickly lady and it was under the guidance of others amidst a more rural setting that Violeta learned the basics of survival, providing her with a coping mechanism that stood to her all her life.
Violeta del Valle was a restless and passionate soul, always driven to succeed in our own indomitable way. Her relationships were constantly fraught as Violeta always challenged society’s expectations and walked her own path.
Presented in the format of a letter, Violeta encompasses the history of a century incorporating wars, revolution and feminism, from the viewpoint of this strong and wilful centenarian. She writes of her fears, her grief, her loves and her regrets.
The country in question is Chile but there is a vagueness throughout about this fact, an almost lack of commitment from Allende to mention it specifically. As a reader I did wonder about this and checked back on more than one occasion in case I had missed something. Dictatorships are referred to but no names, singular events are referred to but, again, with limited specific details.
Violeta reads like an educational history book in many ways, with events almost listed off as Violeta tries to cram everything she has experienced into this long letter to her grandson. I did find that my attention drifted at times, as it felt quite impersonal. Violeta’s character was difficult to imagine. I couldn’t visualise her, creating a fuller image of her in my mind as it just all felt too remote, lacking in any warmth. I think the best word I could use is detached…
Violeta is a definitely an epic read but I would have much preferred if scant reference were given to some events and more depth was given to a few of the more personal struggles that Violeta and her family encountered. I wanted some events more fleshed out and the wonderful characters further developed. A trilogy would have been just marvellous, each book in the series recounting a specific period of Violeta’s extraordinary life.
Violeta is a sweeping and ambitious novel but unfortunately one that just didn’t pull any of my emotional heartstrings.