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Review: Violeta by Isabel Allende

by The Borrowers Book Group Kesgrave Library

The Borrowers Book Group at Kesgrave Library share their thoughts on Violeta, written by Isabel Allende.

About Violeta:

Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first daughter in a family of five boisterous sons. From the start, her life is marked by extraordinary events, for the ripples of the Great War are still being felt, even as the Spanish flu arrives on the shores of her South American homeland almost at the moment of her birth. Through her father's prescience, the family will come through that crisis unscathed, only to face a new one as the Great Depression transforms the genteel city life she has known.

Her family loses all and is forced to retreat to a wild and beautiful but remote part of the country. There, she will come of age, and her first suitor will come calling. In a letter to someone she loves above all others, Violeta recounts devastating heartbreak and passionate affairs, times of both poverty and wealth, terrible loss and immense joy.

Borrow a copy of Violeta from our catalogue.

Book group review:

This is a complex, well written book, equally well translated from the original Spanish. The book not only covered the 100 year life of Violeta as she recalled it but, as the backdrop to her life, also the history of Chile with its dictatorships, corruption, poverty and immigration.

The strong main character survives not only the harsh political regime, but also society’s limiting attitudes to women. Multi-faceted, Violeta became an independent business woman ahead of her time. She survived abuse, betrayal, tragedy, bankruptcy, and loss through friendship, love and determination.

Because it was written like a memoir, the emphasis was more looking back on events in her life with detachment and this absence of emotion, some of us found unengaging. Only in the latter part of the book does Violeta show passion and reveal her emotions.

With so many characters there were some with very interesting stories, particularly the natives. We enjoyed the stage of her life at Santa Clara Farm where we could visualise the setting from its wonderful description of the people and landscape. Pace varied and with some funny bits. We particularly enjoyed the parts which included the strong Irish governess Miss Taylor, and her own eventful and dramatic story.

Recommendation: A long, complex book which provoked a lively discussion about the characters, their relationships and the historical background. Very suitable for a book group choice.

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