A Long Petal of the Sea: The Sunday Times Bestseller
A fabulous historical tale!
I am ashamed to say I didn’t know much about the Spanish civil war and more particularly the displacement of so many Spanish people and the terrible camps and death toll in France as a result.
The Winnipeg story was wonderful and a fabulous way of linking the historical tale in Chile too, which was equally fascinating with the exile situation and the political playing field.
I would have preferred that the tale stayed with the protagonists - Roser and Victor rather than the side story of the Del Solars and that Marcel had also become a protagonist so that we could see the political landscape through the eyes of the next generation.
Overall a compulsive and extremely informative and interesting read
Methley book club JM
I was so please our book club was selected to read and review this book. I found it a gripping read, especially during this long hard 3rd lockdown. Experiencing the sadness of missing my family made me begin to understand a little bit more of just how terrible it must have been for the refugees from the Spanish civil war. This book describes well the horrors, chaos and futility/hopelessness this terrible conflict but in a way that keeps you focussed on the characters. . The quotes from the poet Pablo Neruda add richness to the book and I loved the descriptions of Chilli.
The amazing characters and their stories took me through aspects of history that I had little knowledge of. Indeed it made me research further, to find out what happened to the half a million refugees as they escaped to France to be treated so badly and then to be have to deal with the Nazis in the 2nd world war.
Learning out about the Winnipeg was heart warming and eye opening.
I also realised how little I knew about General Pinochet and the privileged classes in Chilli and the USA involvement in the coup. The unbelievable extremist irrational behaviour of disappearing (killing) doctors and nurses, teachers and anyone who may or may not have opposed the regime is chilling and should act as a warning to us all, as one of the prisoners says " we can all turn into savages if we are given a rifle and an order" . Indeed the book helps increase awareness of how many refugees are in such terrible situations still throughout the world and indeed in our country.
The story covers so many bad parts of history but the characters and the way it is written is full of warmth and love and hope. I would certainly recommend it to friends .
The story follows four generations of a family from 1939 to1994, during which time people are brought together through both love and tragedy. Loyalties to country, kin, political systems and friendships are examined and we see how these loyalties shape lives and motivate the communities that are brought alive by the book.
Through the eyes of the family, the book really illustrates what it feels like to see your country torn apart by civil war and the displacement that follows. By following a family we see how it is possible to become alienated from your country of birth and how the political landscape is woven into the rhythms of everyday life. With political unrest, we watch uncertainty and mistrust build up to de-humanise people in the most dire of circumstances.
Contrasts are drawn between families, highlighting social divisions in society and through these contrasts we see the factors driving and affecting people on both sides of the civil war in Chile, a country which the influential poet Pablo Neruda described as ‘a long petal of the sea’. The way in which the novel is constructed enables us to have some empathy with both sides of the civil war and watch how suspicion grows between factions dividing friendships and families as illustrated by this quotation, "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 won’t fight.”
The theme of displacement ran throughout the book and we learn that the concept of home can be defined not only by a location, but also can be encapsulated in a particular period of time. If the political climate changes beyond recognition it is possible to become a nomad and to feel permanently exiled, never really feeling a true sense of home. As a result we see families making many new starts, trying to rebuild their place in a new community to give themselves a life enhancing sense of purpose as well as a sense of belonging.
Overall, despite the tragedies, the book is uplifting and conveys hope, too, in the sense that 'love conquers all'.
I would recommend this book to others and particularly enjoyed learning more about the civil war in Spain and the pendulum of change in Chile. It was the first book that I've read by Isabel Allende and I am sure I would enjoy others by her.
The author had me hooked from the outset with the horrors of war shown to us right at the beginning. So many young lives sacrificed in the Spanish Civil War, so many young men fighting for their cause with passion and so many being slaughtered.
Isabel Allende weaves a tale around this setting of tragedy and hope beautifully describing her characters through their loves and sacrifices, some never giving up with such inner strength.
I had visited this area of Spain and France many years ago but had no idea what lay beneath these holiday destinations, what tales they might have told. Fortunately Isabel Allende has educated me in her fabulous novel.
Isabel Allende is a wonderful writer and in that there is no doubt. Her attention to detail and her care for her characters is outstanding. This book is a thoughtful dissertation on love and the place it takes in our lives, particularly in the lives of those who find themselves without a home and fighting to find a way to live successfully in the worlds they are forced to become a part of - most often not through choices of their own but through the challenges of wars and politics and the desire for power that shouts loudly over the heads of the everyday person. You cannot help but feel empathy and warmth towards Roser and Victor as they weave their way towards each other, it is powerfully written. That said for me personally there is an enormous amount of historical fact contained within these pages and whilst I appreciate it was a history of which I knew very little it is also a history that for me at times weighted heavily on my enthusiasm for the lives I was attempting to follow. In lesser hands this work would be too unwieldy to read but Isabel takes it beyond that place and I suspect that my hesitation is down to my dislike of historical fiction rather than any failing on the part of this title which I would happily recommend.
I was thoroughly absorbed by this book from the off. A very warm, strong, immersive and masterfully told story of survival, conflict, exile, making a difference, exile, courage and deep love.
Victor Dalmau is a young Catalan man caught up in the Spanish civil war and becomes a doctor through grim experience at the front line. He reinforces his practical, medical experience and knowledge with study and gains full medical qualifications.
His family is torn up by the civil war and ultimately, he and Roser seek refuge and a new life in Chile. A new world, a new life, a safe haven or so they think .... and then history repeats itself and it all starts again; political unrest, dictatorships, imprisonment, exile, separation, despair, renewed hope.
In his advanced years, Victor comments “My life has been a series of journeys. I’ve travelled from one side of the world to another.. I’ve been a foreigner without realising I had deep roots .... My spirit has sailed as well.”
This is a wonderfully moving book about survival, love and optimism and the strength of the human spirit. Fascinating.