This sweeping novel from the bestselling author of The House of Spirits and A Long Petal of the Sea tells the epic story of Violeta Del Valle, a South American woman whose life spans one hundred years and bears witness to the greatest upheavals of the 20th-century.
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.