A long petal of the sea – Isabel Allende

Set during the Spanish Civil War, this novel follows the journey of Roser and Victor as they embark on a ship chartered by poet Pablo Neruda. They are part of a fortunate group of refugees who are fleeing Franco’s Spain to start a new life in Chile. As they settle into Valparaiso, the characters reflect on their changing sense of belonging and alienation. Their respite is, however, very short as their lives are once again swept by General Pinochet’s coup. ⁣

Learning more about Pablo Neruda was to me the highlight of this beautiful novel. His poetry informs every part of the story and even the title of the book comes from one of his poems which portrays Chile as a “long petal of sea and wine and snow”. Allende’s storytelling talent is evident through her vivid imagery and her brilliant reflection on the importance of love, courage, and solidarity in times of war and exile. ⁣

I was a bit disappointed by the account of the Civil War which sometimes felt more like a history lesson than a compelling work of historical fiction. Yet the characters are very attaching so I still recommend it to anyone looking for a mix of romance, history and an interesting reflection on the meaning of “home”. ⁣

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