Violeta chronicles a feminist awakening amid twin repressive forces, the state and the domestic sphere, in passages whose sheer breadth is punctuated by sometimes stilted, explanatory dialogue ... One might crave the inventive details that made Allende’s debut novel an icon of post-Boom Latin American literature ... This novel forgoes such chimeras in favor of headline realism in a stylistically straightforward translation ... Compellingly unsentimental ... [The] middle section, the novel’s strongest, chronicles the events leading to dictatorship in a country much like Chile...in unflinching, breezy prose that narrows its focus to the class and gender tensions playing out in daily life. Violeta offers humorous reprieves and no-nonsense ruminations ... Violeta’s naïve, sometimes colonialist lens results in a reckless romanticism ... Violeta’s reckoning leads to the development of a foundation to support survivors of domestic violence — but a conclusion that 'if you truly want to help others, you’re going to need money' is circular logic that feels like a watery offering on a blood-soaked altar, a quiet tiptoe off the page after a careful rendering of the political graveyards that haunt Latin America’s psyche.
I learnt a lot about the history and politics of this area of America and although some incidents are real there are imagined scenes which involve specific characters to add to the drama—but do not distract from the plot ... As a mother, Violeta has faults which she honestly describes. Some of the most heart wrenching pages with tragedy and wonderful dialogue cover huge family experiences with her son and daughter ... This is a detailed sweeping book. Sometimes I do admit I felt a bit confused by the numerous introduction of characters and in this case a list at the beginning by the publishers may well have helped readers. But as a personal read it was immersive and I travelled beside Violeta through a life well lived if not perhaps with mistakes of her own making. I think fans of Allende will lap up this novel and for lovers of epic family sagas perhaps in a different continent with the edge of real-life incidents this will interesting to book groups.
Isabel Allende is a very fluent novelist. Her books rattle along, and make for easy and enjoyable reading. Like any good novelist she demands and deserves a certain suspension of disbelief on the part of her readers ... The narrative is full of incident, variety and life, not always convincing ... Violeta is full of life, a great sweeping story like a river in spate. It makes for enjoyable and undemanding reading. This is its strength. I can’t imagine readers turning it aside because they are bored. For English-language readers it is agreeably exotic. There is a prosaic realism in the chronicle, happily without any tiresome Latin American 'magic'. Yet its weakness as a novel is equally evident. I use the word “chronicle” advisedly. This is what we are offered, one damn thing after another. What is missing is the dramatic. Everything is told in retrospect. Even the most important scenes are related from memory, often distant memory, with little if any sense of the immediate. It also seems that, in order to travel from one pandemic to another, over a span of a hundred years, credibility is sacrificed. On can’t quite believe in a narrator a hundred years old ... Perhaps this is why Violeta herself is never quite a convincing or indeed interesting character, her relationship with Julian, especially, is never brought convincingly to life.
Violeta routinely contradicts herself ... The book only properly comes alive in the mid-70s, when the ravages of dictatorship has a great effect on Violeta’s family, and suddenly there is narrative urgency, Allende electing at last to show rather than tell, allowing the reader to fully engage ... Violeta, a comparatively slim novel and briskly told, feels like a missed opportunity. It skims stones over so much, and before you know it, it’s the 50s, the 80s; she is 30 years old, then 90. Allende, though, is terrific on old age, and shows how adventure doesn’t have to stop once you start stooping. If ultimately you marvel at her heroine’s pluck and fortitude, her ongoing lust for life, it is because you likely feel much the same way about Allende herself. She may have written better books, but Violeta engages all the same.
... breathless ... There’s extreme drama at nearly every turn ... Told in the form of a deathbed letter to Violeta’s grandson, this breakneck novel is loosely about the extent to which a life is at the mercy of history, but Allende’s famed storytelling technique lets her down: so much happens that you can barely see the wood, let alone poor Violeta.
[Violeta's] love life is complex, tumultuous, and unpredictable for readers, who will eagerly follow her narrative, which Violeta recounts in a style that’s remarkably forthright about her own and others’ personal failings. The characterizations are intriguingly layered, and as people’s lives are buffeted by dramatic changes, including a military coup that destroys her country’s democracy, Violeta comes into her own strength. Allende has long been renowned as an enchanting storyteller, and this emotionally perceptive epic ranks among her best ... Allende’s treasured historical sagas are always profoundly relevant, and this tale of a woman’s life bracketed by two pandemics will have special magnetism and resonance.
Allende frames Violeta’s life story with two global pandemics, and while Violeta’s reflections on Covid-19 feel a little forced, Allende seamlessly ties the rise and fall of Cold War–era military dictatorships throughout Latin America to Violeta’s autobiography. It’s a mixed bag, but Allende succeeds once again at making the historical feel personal.
While there's no lack of incidence in this chronological epic, which is punctuated by glancing references to historical events including the rise of military takeovers, Allende's reductive style deprives the book of narrative power. For all she goes through, Violeta is thinly drawn—her great business success as a home builder seems tossed in like an afterthought. And the 'floods, drought, poverty, and eternal discontent' she refers to are kept offstage. A slog even Allende fans may have trouble getting through.