A Long Petal of the Sea: A Novel

by Isabel Allende

Other authorsNick Caistor (Translator), Amanda Hopkinson (Translator)
Hardcover, 2020

Call number




Ballantine Books (2020), 336 pages


"In the late 1930s, civil war gripped 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 irreversibly 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 wants, and together are sponsored by poet Pablo Neruda to embark on the SS Winnipeg along with 2,200 other refugees in search of a new life. As unlikely partners, they embrace exile and emigrate to Chile as the rest of Europe erupts in World War. Starting over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning. Over the course of their lives, they will face test after test. But they will also find joy as they wait patiently for a day when they are exiles no more, and will find friends in the most unlikely of places. Through it all, it is that hope of being reunited with their home that keeps them going. And in the end, they will find that home might have been closer than they thought all along"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member PaperDollLady
Wonderful opening to this historical story, with much about the plight of refugees to survive and escape the oppression of Spain's Civil War and Franco's dictarorship. For the first 2/3rds of this book I was extremely invested in the story's main characters. Then, for a few chapters before the last it seemed as if reading a long epilogue with much detail about Chili's history. However, beyond that drawback, with the final chapter came an unexpected and endearing conclusion. The ending is what caused me to uptick to four stars in this compelling read.… (more)
LibraryThing member tangledthread
This is a family saga of Victor Dalmau and Roser Bruegera Dalmau whose lives are repeatedly upended by war and political unrest beginning with the Spanish Civil War, seeking refuge in Chile while WWII rages in Europe, then through the political unrest during the coup against Salvador Allende and the horrific reign of Augusto Pinochet the demise of his 17 year dictatorship.
Pablo Neruda also plays a key role in the narrative. The title of the book is his descriptor for Chile.

Victor and Roser enter into a marriage of necessity as they flee retribution at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Roser is pregnant to Victor's brother who was killed in the war and the only way they can gain passage on the refugee ship to Chile is for them to be married. Victor vows to raise his brother's son as his own and he and Roser begin their marriage living as brother and sister.

One of the most gratifying parts of reading this book is seeing how the relationship between them deepens and grows.

I found the story to be fascinating and at times heart breaking. I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
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LibraryThing member brangwinn
Another excellent book by Allende tells the story of Chilean immigrants who came from Spain to escape Franco’s regime. Following the story of a small family, it shows the gratitude of those who escaped and how they along with the next generation, made a positive impact on Chile. (Net Galley review copy)
LibraryThing member bogopea
Classic Allende . . . lyrical, mesmerizing epic of love, spanning 3 countries, exile, civil wars and political upheavals. ". . . relationships between past and present, family and nation, city and country, spiritual and political values." Pure Allende. I loved it.
LibraryThing member sleahey
This far-reaching novel begins with the Spanish Civil War and ends well after the Pinochet coup in Chile, tracing the characters and their families from Spain to Chile, to Venezuela, and back to Chile. Of course, the author is intimately familiar with Chilean history and politics, and she has developed characters who cause us to care deeply about the political tyranny and man's inhumanity to man that she describes. The relationship that develops between Victor, a Spanish wartime doctor, and Roser, the pregnant widow of his brother, is complex as it ebbs and flows over decades. The historical characters such as General Franco, Salvador Allende, and the poet Pablo Neruda, are brought to life as the fictitious characters' lives intersect with them. This is a memorable and powerful story about war, dictatorship, family, and romance, all with a historical backdrop.… (more)
LibraryThing member Beamis12
4.5 So very glad that Allende has returned to form. I had trouble with her last few books, though her earlier novels were outstanding. Historicals are definitely her forte as this book about demonstrated.

This is the story of Victor and Roser who get together under tragic circumstances. It is also a story of war, refugees, displacement and making a new country one's home. The Spanish Civil War, Franco and his terror, which sends many fleeing to France where they are not welcomed. Pablo Neruda, and his ship the Winnipeg. Neruda sponsored and chose a group of refugees that would settle in Chile. Roser and Victor are among this group and will result in a lifelong friendship.

In Chile Victor plays chess with Allende, a duly elected President, though not for long. Replaced by the Generals in a coup that will result in Pinchocets dictatorship. The historical facts are true, as are the people. A book that shows love can grow, even under the worst possible circumstances.

Victor and Roser are wonderful, fully realized characters. The prose is terrific, and resulted in a very readable, well flowing story. The status and non welcoming of refugees is current today, where many are fleeing danger in their own countries, trying to find safety, a new life. The refugee camps, also still present today, are found I many countries , detention centers in my own. As always when reading historicals I am disturbed to find how much my own country is involved in the fate of others. Wish it wasn't so, but it is what it is. We can't change history but one would think we could learn from it and do better. Wishful thinking.
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LibraryThing member TNbookgroup
Luba. Set in 1930s Spain, Roser and Victor flee to Chile to get away from Franco’s fascist regime. Their marriage is purely one of convenience, and their story is a multi-generational epic that follows the characters from Spain to France, Chile, Argentina, and eventually the United States. In addition to being well-researched historical fiction, it also parallels current issues.… (more)
LibraryThing member ethel55
Spanning many decades, this story begins with the Spanish Civil War, shortly before WWII fully compromises Europe. I definitely found a lot of the historical information interesting, I didn't really know much about the Spanish Civil War except from small parts from Hemingway. One of the real life historical figures, poet Pablo Neruda, is truly the backbone of the story as he chartered a ship and removed about 2000 refugees from camps in France to travel to Chile. There, the story continues with Victor Dalmau and his wife Roser. They make a wonderful life in Chile, incorporating many of their Spanish roots with their new Chilean life. The book continues into the revolutionary times--Pinochet, when many refugees became refugees again. It's hard to know what else to say, with Allende's wonderful storytelling, the book just sails along, with Victor outliving most to tell the full tale.… (more)
LibraryThing member tamidale
I’ve enjoyed some of Isabel Allende’s previous novels and her most recent was certainly no exception. Allende is such a gifted storyteller. Even better is the fact that this novel is based on historical events.

I must admit, I know very little about Spanish history, especially the Spanish Civil War that occurred during the late 1930’s. I was surprised to read that Spanish citizens had to flee the country for safety.

Two of these citizens who fled were Roser and Victor. Roser, who was pregnant with Victor’s brother’s child, fled with help from Victor and one of his friends. She stays for a time in France and soon she and Victor are re-united. After learning that Victor’s brother has died, the two make a decision to marry in order for them to be able to emigrate to Chile.

Unfortunately for the couple, in later years they will face more strife in Chile due to political upheaval. On a more positive note, what began as a marriage of convenience, ends up being the love of a lifetime for Victor and Roser. I found this to be a very engrossing story, although there was a bit more politics than I was expecting.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for allowing to read an advance copy and give an honest review
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LibraryThing member Beth.Clarke
I don't usually read romance, but since was also historical, I thought it might be good. I found the characters lacking depth and even the plot was predictable and drawn out.
LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
A Long Petal of the Sea, Isabel Allende, author; Edoardo Ballerini, narrator
This is a well researched, beautifully written novel which begins in the 1930’s and takes us forward for six plus decades of turmoil in the lives of Victor and Roser Dalmau as they seek a homeland. It is sometimes about history and sometimes it is about romance. It is about migrants, exiles, asylum seekers, secrets, idealism, loyalty, devotion, politics, war and corruption in the church, but always there is hope in the end. It begins with the story of those who fled Franco’s Spain when the Nationalists who were Fascists defeated the Republicans who were Marxists and Socialists. Franco’s government was a military dictatorship which was ruled with an iron fist.
The reader is taken through the Spanish Civil War as innocent and guilty alike are caught in the web of intrigue and terror. The Civil War tore the country apart. At the same time as the Spanish were struggling to survive the change in government and loyalties, World War II broke out. Those who hadn’t supported Franco were in mortal danger as they were captured, tortured and murdered. Those that could, eventually fled. Not all countries would accept refugees, but Chile welcomed them.
Victor Dalmau was from Barcelona, Spain. His mother had been preparing to become a nun when she met his father, a prominent music teacher, and fell in love. She left the convent and to avoid having their children labeled as bastards, the couple married. Children born out of wedlock becomes a recurrent theme in the novel.
Victor studied medicine in Spain. He was not a fan of Franco, and when the Civil War broke out, he worked in a hospital to treat those who were injured fighting against him. When Victor was injured, he returned home to Barcelona and his parents, until he recovered. In the house with them was Roser Bruguera, his father’s best, young music student. His parents had taken her into their home when her family fell onto hard times. She was like family to Victor. Victor’s brother, Guillem, however, had a romantic relationship with her that she took more seriously than he did.
After he got well, Victor returned to the hospital to help the injured. Then one day, he received a call from his mother. His father was ill and near death. He had to locate his brother, and both of them needed to return home if they hoped to see their father alive once again. Victor had difficulty locating his brother because Guillem, was on the front, fighting.
Time passed and the war raged on. The hygiene conditions were terrible and Guillem became gravely ill with Typhus. He was sent home to die or recover. With the care from Roser and his mother, he recovered and was able to return to the battlefield. However, during his recuperation, Roser was so devoted to him that he fell in love with her. They pledged to marry, but Guillem did not return home. He never knew that Roser was pregnant with his child.
In order to flee Spain, when Franco set up his regime,Victor and Roser pose as a married couple, and with his mother, they leave on the ship, the SS Winnipeg, that Pablo Neruda had chartered. They went to the long petal of the sea which is how the poet, Neruda, refers to Chile. He calls it “the long petal of sea and wine and snow”. When Roser learns of Guillem’s death, Victor swears to raise their child as his own, and he and Roser marry for appearance’s sake, although they live like brother and sister.
In Chile, Victor has his own affair with a young girl, Ofelia, who was already promised to someone else. So, although Victor and Ofelia had no future, once again, there is an unexpected pregnancy. To avoid shame, Ofelia goes to a church that cares for unwed mothers. After she delivers, she is told her son was born dead. Ofelia never told Victor that she was pregnant, so like his brother, he was unaware that he was to be a father.
After time passes, Roser and Victor realize that they have grown deeply in love. The child, Marcel, was born in Chile. They feel like Chile is their home. Revolution soon followed them there, too, and they were forced to flee once again. This time they went to Venezuela. History repeated and they had to leave there, as well, but by then they were able to return to Chile. Like a revolving door, chaos followed them. When Spain opened its arms to them, they wondered if they should pick up and move again. Should they return to Spain? Where was home?
The story is complicated. There are many characters and experiences that have to be knitted together. There are many repetitive themes, war, greed, pregnancy, religious corruption, innocence, guilt, loss and shame. The novel contains many elements of history and bits and pieces of fiction and non-fiction that are woven together skillfully to make it an interesting read. Although there is sex, it is not gratuitous.
The audio narrator is very good, keeping a safe personal distance from the story, but portraying the story well.
To sum it up, revolution follows revolution which is followed by torture and arrest, exile follows exile, from one country to the next, love affair follows love affair, illegitimate children multiply until the story goes full circle, and there is the right of return to a homeland.
The story feels more authentic because, coincidentally, the author’s life parallel’s several moments in the book.
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LibraryThing member browner56
A Long Petal of the Sea is certainly an ambitious book. In it, author Isabel Allende sets out to do nothing less than tell the real-life history of the cathartic political revolutions in two different countries—Spain and Chile—lying half a world apart. Linking these conflicts is the very personal, multi-generational saga of Victor and Roser Dalmau, a fictional couple who experience the best and the worst of these events that shaped so much of the world’s political and social landscape in the second half of the 20th century. So, the novel offers the reader compelling historical fiction involving significant figures such as Francisco Franco, Pablo Neruda, and Salvador Allende along with an affecting and tumultuous love story that spans more than five decades. Ambitious, indeed!

That summary provides a useful context because the novel divides fairly evenly between its historical and imagined elements. Of the two, I found the former to be more engaging than the latter. Roughly the first third of the story is set in and around Barcelona at the time of the Spanish Civil War, where Victor and his brother Guillem serve the increasingly doomed Republican cause. The author’s depictions of the war and its aftermath are stark and gripping; it is perhaps the best fictional account of this subject since Ernest Hemingway’s legendary For Whom the Bell Tolls. The remainder of the novel then moves to South America, beginning with Victor and Roser’s emigration to Chile on a cargo ship arranged by the poet Neruda and culminating with the action leading up to and following the brutal coup d’etat that overthrew the Marxist president Salvador Allende in the mid-1970s. For me, this was the most interesting and revealing part of the book. (It is well established, of course, that the deposed president was the author’s uncle, making this a very personal account.)

On the other hand, I thought that the purely fictional tale of Victor and Roser’s lengthy relationship was somewhat less successful. There was really nothing wrong with the story itself—it was well-plotted and contained multiple twists and turns—but it did not sustain my interest until the end. Part of the problem might have been the matter-of-fact, third-person style the author adopted throughout the book, which made it difficult at times to generate a lot of empathy for the protagonists. In fact, the entire story really peaked following the Chilean coup, with much of the remaining narrative feeling like an obligatory wrap-up to the storylines of the myriad characters the author introduced earlier. In that regard, the novel suffers by comparison to the author’s own brilliant The House of the Spirits that covers some of this same ground in a more convincing way. Still, A Long Petal of the Sea is an excellent book that will satisfy Allende’s legion of fans as well as those who may be new to her work.
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LibraryThing member jmoncton
This was definitely a mixed experience for me. As many others, I really enjoy Isabel Allende's writing -- it's powerful yet lyrical and almost always evokes an emotional response. But as some other people have mentioned, there were parts of this book that felt like a long excerpt from a Wikipedia page about Spain and Franco's devastating rule. The beginning of the book was classic Allende and completely drew me in with the stories of Victor and Rosar, but I didn't feel the same emotional draw for the second half.

Will I read another Allende novel -- absolutely, but this one won't be one of my favorites.
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LibraryThing member janismack
Story of a pregnant young widow who finds her life intertwined with the brother of her deceased love. We follow their lives from Spain to when they immigrate to Chile. Through the lives of Victor and Roser, we learn about the political upheavals of Chile from the 1950´s to present day.
LibraryThing member Radiohead1985
Sweeping. Beautiful. Human.

The single best thing about this book is Allende's prose. Quickening, slowing, and stopping altogether the pace of time almost seamlessly, she constructs simple yet powerful prose. The inter-generational progression of character lines combined with constant change in setting, their sufferings and hopes - it is a simple tale about simple people. People separating and people reuniting. Distinct people with different desires and approaches to life. High emotional investment in characters was almost a given - reading the book was like growing up with the characters.

Allende also skillfuly ground her fiction in historical fact: from the Spanish Civil War, the exodus to France, the Winnipeg and Pablo Neruda, to the coup in Chile and the death of Franco - just reading the book acquaints one with political history. She manages also to get the little details right - how three volumes of philospohy books could stop a bullet, the numerous real-life historical figures, and the newspaper rhetoric against refugees (which is alarmingly similar to what we hear today). Finally, the uneasy negotiated tension between the right and the left, the depths of hatred and love between strangers and family members is relentlessly true-to-life.

inter-generational and set across multiple countries - Chile, Spain, Venezuela, Argentia, America, France, the book deftly and gently telescopes and microscopes into the hearts of people and nations.
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LibraryThing member Beth_German
I went into this book knowing a bit about the Spanish Civil War and nothing at all about Chile. Generally, when I'm reading historical fiction, it inspires me to get online and research the details about the actual historical events behind the story. That didn't happen when reading this until about 2/3 into it when Salvador Allende came into power and I began to research the relationship between him and the author. I'll save you the research, her father was a first cousin of Salvador Allende, President of Chile from 1970 to 1973. Even after finding this interesting and also finding that the author is now 77 so she obviously has years of life and history to pull from in writing this about her native country, Chile, I couldn't manage to love this story as I had hoped. There was a tremendous amount of historical information included but sometimes, it seemed haphazardly thrown in. Lots of moments where it felt like a story being told by someone where they consistently throw in that random tidbit of info that really doesn't add to the story but rather detracts because you're wondering what that had to do with it, is it relevant, and if so...how? I never really fell in love with any of the characters in this story either. I wanted to but it just didn't happen. While this seems like a very negative review, the historical information, and especially from the perspective of someone who was distantly related to one of the real-life characters in the book was interesting. I would have probably enjoyed it more if I'd done more research up front about Chile's history and would strongly encourage other readers to do so. I received a copy of this book through #NetGalley. #AlongPetalOfTheSea… (more)
LibraryThing member LilyRoseShadowlyn
Audible version

Great narrator who distinguished the voices. A good book to listen to. From war, to love, to loss, if you're a historical fiction fan you'll enjoy this.
LibraryThing member hemlokgang
Frankly, after listening to more than half of this book, I gave up. I expected a novel, a story, and characters. I found this to be more like reading a history of Chile, which would be ok if that's what I signed up for. Just not for me.
LibraryThing member JanaRose1
The book open in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Victor, an army medic, marries his deceased brothers love Roser, to protect her and her unborn baby. With thousands of other refugees they set sail on the SS Winnipeg destined for Chile. The two settle in Chile and make a life together with Roser's son. When the approach of the Chilean civil war, they both feel as if they are back in Spain.

This book was an odd one. It covers the span of Victor and Roser's adult life with some time periods well covered and others glossed over. The time transitions were jerky and off putting. The details about their day-to-day life was just missing, which made me feel like I didn't know any of the characters. Along with this, the book had a very nostalgic feel to it. I'm not really sure how to rate this one, so I'll give it 3 out of 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member DebbieMcCauley
During the Spanish Civil War, Victor Dalmau serves as an army doctor. After his brother's death during the fighting, his very pregnant sister in law, Roser, and hundreds of others are forced to flee over the mountains to relative safety in France. Victor and Roser are sponsored by poet Pablo Neruda to embark on the SS Winnipeg along with 2,200 other refugees in search of a new life in Chile as World War II erupts. This family saga follows Victor and Roser to the end of their lives. Contains a lot of historical research so often reads like a non-fiction book full of facts which doesn't really serve the fictional story well.… (more)
LibraryThing member mplantenga11
I enjoyed this story a lot. I'm typically one that has to have a very clear plot line to follow, which this one didn't necessarily have. This story simply followed our protagonist, Victor, through his life and his suffering of both the Spanish Civil War and the Chilean coup d'etat. I didn't know much about either event so this was a good introduction to them from a first-hand account of someone who experienced both like many Spanish refugees in Chile did. I enjoyed Victor and Roser's characters and thought the book was very well written. The poems from Pablo Neruda, and his character in the story, were a fantastic addition.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookwyrmm
Very beautiful to listen to, like being by the sea, but I had a hard time keeping some characters straight.
LibraryThing member wcath
An epic saga that spans the Spanish Civil War and Franco's regime to a shipboard flight to Chile and much more. The book centers on the Dalmau family who lived in the Catalan region of Spain. The father, Marcel Lluis Dalmau is a professor of music. His wife is Carme and his sons are Victor and Guillem. Victor is a doctor and Guillem is a soldier fighting in the war. Roser, one of their father's star music students has come to live in their home because of her family's poverty and poor living situation. As the civil war rages and conditions worsen, Marcel dies and, with Guillem away at the front, it falls to Victor to keep the family safe. He learns about a ship being chartered by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to take thousands of Spanish refugees to the safety of his country.

I loved this book. Allende is a brilliant storyteller. The family goes through many trials and some jubilation that in some ways mirror the history of Chile and Spain. I learned a lot about this period of history, but unlike some others who have reviewed here, I found that it was woven into the story and added dimension and depth. The title of the book comes from Neruda who called Chile "a long petal of the sea". I gave this book 5 stars. This is one of my favorite books this year.

(Review based on complimentary Advance Reader copy received as a giveaway through Goodreads.)
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LibraryThing member maryreinert
I believe this is the best Allende novel I've read. First set during the Spanish Civil War, but ending upFin Chile at the time of Allende and Pinochet. Victor Dalmau is an Army doctor and his brother is a fierce fighter fighting against the forces of Franco. When the rebellion falls, thousands of refugees flee Italy to France in terrible conditions. Roser, a young woman pregnant with Victor's brother's child finds herself with Victor. After some time, the baby is born and Victor and Roser want to leave France for Chile but the only way they can is for them to be a family so they marry meaning to divorce as soon as things are settled.

Life in Chile brings a total different life style and involves the de Solar family, a wealthy family with conservative values who are against the immigrants. Ofelia de Solar and Victor soon have an affair leading to many more complications.

This is a story of war both in Italy and then later in Chile as the socialists take over the country and families like the de Solars flee. This is also a love story between Victor and Ofelia and Victor and Roser who remain married for the rest of their lives.

The characters are all very well drawn and believable. The choices these people have to make are hard and reflect the history of the time.Good read.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
In 1939, the poet Pablo Neruda organized a ship to transport 2200 Spanish refugees to Chile, to start a new life. In A Long Petal of the Sea Isabel Allende placed two fictional characters, Victor and Roser, into this setting and imagines their lives over the next 50 years.

Or at least that's what I think she meant to do. Unfortunately, the book often reads like a Wikipedia entry on Chilean history, with the characters as convenient pawns in that narrative. There's a lot of good stuff for a novel here: a multigenerational story arc involving war, romance, illegitimate children, lost loves, and lives well lived despite adversity. But the long explanations of history and the political climate snuff out any possibility of the reader’s emotional engagement.… (more)




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