A Long Petal of the Sea
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A Long Petal of the Sea

Isabel Allende, Nick Caister, Amanda Hopkinson

September 3, 1939, the day of the Spanish exiles' splendid arrival in Chile, the Second World War broke out in Europe.

Victor Dalmau is a young doctor when he is caught up in the Spanish Civil War, a tragedy that leaves his life - and the fate of his country - forever changed. Together with his sister-in-law, the pianist Roser Bruguera, he is forced out of his beloved Barcelona and into exile.

When opportunity to seek refuge in Chile arises, they take it, boarding a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda to the promised ‘long petal of sea and wine and snow’ over the seas. There, they find themselves enmeshed in a rich web of characters who come together in love and tragedy over the course of four generations, destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world.

A masterful work of historical fiction about hope, exile and belonging, A Long Petal of the Sea is Isabel Allende at the height of her powers.

Review

Isabel Allende is an incredible, prolific and successful author. She has written twenty-three books that have been translated into forty-two languages with more than 74 million copies sold across the world. Each story she tells is distinctive, accessible and always possible. Her books are filled with constant moments of pathos and sincerity, with her latest novel centring on the plight of refugees. A Long Petal of the Sea follows two young resilient people, Roser, a pregnant young widow, and Victor, an army doctor, as they flee from the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War to France.

This novel is a commanding history lesson, but it is also a love story and a tribute to those people who fled then and those who are presently stateless and homeless. In order to survive and to obtain the correct visa, Roser and Victor must unite in a marriage neither of them wants. And then, of course, World War II breaks out. Their journey across continents and decades to find a home continues.

Allende records the plight of refugees at a particular time in history, but in truth she is writing for all people travelling across countries searching for a safe life. Using historical lenses, Allende ensures we all understand the bleak plight of refugees. This is an engrossing read for those that are fans of Allende’s work and for those that enjoy looking back to see forward. It is a novel that celebrates fortitude and courage, and surely we need more of those stories right now.


Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager for Readings.

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