There is no better time than now to lose yourself in an epic romantic saga. Isabel Allende’s new book, A Long Petal of the Sea, tells the story of two refugees fleeing Franco’s Fascists. The pair flee first to France and then to South America, specifically Chile which later erupts into its own civil war. Against a meticulously researched and beautifully realized historical backdrop, two resilient souls do more than survive, they hope and strive and love.
I was having trouble reading for the first two months of Safer-at-Home (also known as bored in the house) but something has switched (my lizard brain now thinks this is how our life is now) and I can focus on something for longer than 3 minutes. Let’s hope this continues because I have a stack of books from the library that the library does not want back anytime soon because, you know, germs.
In the late 1930s, civil war grips Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them desires.
Together with two thousand other refugees, they embark on the SS Winnipeg, a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda, to Chile: “the long petal of sea and wine and snow.” As unlikely partners, they embrace exile as the rest of Europe erupts in world war. Starting over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning, and over the course of their lives, they will face trial after trial. But they will also find joy as they patiently await the day when they will be exiles no more. Through it all, their hope of returning to Spain keeps them going. Destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world, Roser and Victor will find that home might have been closer than they thought all along.