A Long Petal of the Sea- Book Review

By: Isabel Allende

A Long Petal of the Sea details the life of a man named Victor. Allende begins this story during the Spanish Civil War. When this war ends Victor and his family flee from Spain and immigrate to Chile. Throughout their lives they immigrate between other South American countries as well. Allende shows the reader the circumstances of the Spanish Civil War and how it shaped the Spanish people. Later on, Victor is taken through yet another civil war, this time in Chile. We also get to see what Venezuela was like during the early 1980s, a very different picture then what Venezuela has become today. This book covers many topics and historical events. You learn about the struggles of a refugee and what it’s like starting over again in a foreign country. Allende perfectly shows the ever-changing political landscape of once-stable countries. It shows how quickly security and freedom can slip from your grasp. Victor and his family begin as refugees fleeing a political coup in their home country, and this theme seems to follow them everywhere they go.

“Venezuela received Victor with the same easygoing generosity with which it took in thousands of immigrants from many parts of the world… [Venezuela] was one of the wealthiest countries in the world… nobody killed themselves working… life was a long party, with a great sense of freedom and a profound sense of equality.”

Why I chose this book…

I decided to read this book because I often saw it on different book blogs and reading lists. I was interested in reading a historical fiction novel however, I wanted the book to cover a period in history that I wasn’t familiar with. I know very little about the Spanish Civil War or about Chilean history so I was intrigued to read this story.

My thoughts on the book… 

I’m happy I chose to read this book. It was eventful, had good character development, and had some unexpected twists along the way. However, I was surprised to see that the Spanish Civil War was just one event and not the main event in this book. I didn’t get to learn as much about the Spanish Civil War as I would have liked. The layout of this book was a bit different then I was used to, and I felt like some events were too rushed. The chapters were laid out by years. Within each chapter you learn what happens to all the characters during those specific years. I think that may be the reason each event was rushed. As well, each chapter ended with the ending of a time frame, not with an intriguing angle that made you want to keep reading. I also found that the ending was a bit abrupt, and I was hoping to hear more about that final major event in Victor’s life. That being said, I still enjoyed reading this book.

The Author…

Isabel Allende is well known for her novel, The House of the Spirits, but she has written over 20 books that have all won critical acclaim. A Long Petal of the Sea is her most recent book, it is a book that includes stories that were told to her as a child. Her cultural background is South American (raised in Chile), and many of the people and events she writes about are from stories she hears from older relatives. None of the characters are real, but they are all shaped by people she knew.

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