Violeta by Isabel Allende

Allende is the queen of a family saga set in one of the South American countries that follows the life of a woman. Violeta is no different in that it follows the life of Violeta Del Valle over her 100 years of life. As in all books that span such a lifetime this is a ‘stand back’ or panorama of a life that covered the world wars, dictatorship and living life as you want as a woman when others don’t. In fact her life is neatly sandwiched by the Spanish Flu and ends with the Covid pandemic.

The story is told through the form of a letter to Camilo, a troublesome grandchild that Violeta raised, in order to explain her life. There is a thread of domestic abuse throughout her adult life followed through eventually when she helps others in similar positions but I can’t help thinking that this story is in general terms very similar to her previous book A Long Petal of the Sea. The events may be different but it is basically the same way of telling similar events.

Again, it is interesting reading this after The Stone Diaries which also tells a woman’s life that spans 100 years. In that book it is the life of an ‘ordinary’ woman and Violeta is obviously the life of a woman whose life is deemed worthy of retelling even if only as an explanation for her grandchild. Carol Shields plays with us in The Stone Diaries by showing us at the end that we can never really know the person being written about and that is really how I feel about Violeta.

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