Violeta, who was born during the Spanish influenza pandemic and turns one hundred years old during the coronavirus pandemic, writes a memoir to hand down to her grandson Camilo.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Isabel Allende, and in fact have several others of her books on hand, piled in the tottering tower that is my TBR list. However, this is the first book by her that I’ve read, and it did not reach the heights I was expecting.
Not that this is by any means a bad book. The writing is so excellent that I slipped through the novel almost without realizing it, coming up for air at the end like after a swim in an extremely placid lake. I found the storyline interesting, following as it does the ups and downs of such a long life through such varied circumstances – Violeta lives in poverty and wealth, has romantic attachments with a variety of personalities, has complicated relationships with both her children, and ultimately turns to activism in her old age. She makes both wise and reckless decisions throughout, and is brave enough to own up to them.
However, I felt like the novel was oddly lacking in emotional impact. There’s a lot of bad things that happen to Violeta, but they felt almost glossed over at times. This may be because Violeta at the time of the writing is so far removed from those previous events of her life, but I felt that this does the reader a disservice. The only time where I felt emotion really break through was with Nieves, her daughter.
I also had trouble getting close to many of the characters. Those written about earlier in the story, such as Miss Taylor and Júlian, are more vivid than those who enter the tale later on. Violeta herself is hard to peg, despite being the narrator and main character – perhaps it is because she stands in the reader’s blind spot, as the purported author of the memoir, but I did wish we got to know her better.
Overall, a decent read, but I expect not one of Allende’s best.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review.