Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Isabel Allende's Violeta spans 100 years in a South American woman's amazing and eventful life

Allende has crafted many unique heroines of passionate, resilient spirit in her internationally best-selling historical novels, and Violeta Del Valle is no exception.

Born during the Spanish flu outbreak in an unnamed South American country (clearly based on Chile) in 1920, Violeta addresses her memoir to a beloved relative, Camilo, during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. She spins a captivating, cinematic tale of her century-long existence, intertwining large-scale political and social transformations with reflections on her life.

The spoiled daughter in a family with five older sons, Violeta watches the Del Valles’ finances tumble into ruin during the Depression. After losing their illustrious home, her family finds refuge in a remote southern farming town with many Indigenous residents and German and French immigrants.

This supposed exile becomes an enriching experience for Violeta. Her love life is complex, tumultuous, and unpredictable for readers, who will eagerly follow her narrative, which Violeta recounts in a style that’s remarkably forthright about her own and others’ personal failings.

The characterizations are intriguingly layered, and as people’s lives are buffeted by dramatic changes, including a military coup that destroys her country’s democracy, Violeta comes into her own strength. Allende has long been renowned as an enchanting storyteller, and this emotionally perceptive epic ranks among her best.

Violeta will be published by Ballantine in January; I reviewed it from a NetGalley copy for the 12/15 issue of Booklist (I made it a starred review).

There was no room to say this in the review, but past readers of Allende's work may recognize the name Del Valle, and Violeta is indeed connected to the characters from her first novel, The House of the Spirits.  It's not a major part of this book, and you definitely don't need to read any others first, but the link is mentioned. Other Del Valle family members figure in Allende's Daughter of Fortune and Portrait in Sepia.

I'll be back after the New Year with more posts. Thanks for visiting my site, and best wishes for good reading for 2022!


  1. Thank you for the review. The author is new to me and I will be making a note of this book as well.

    1. If you find you like this one, she has a large backlist to choose from. Another favorite is Daughter of Fortune.

  2. Happy New York and thank you for all the wonderful historical fiction I've discovered here reading your reviews.

    1. Hope you're enjoying the holiday break, Alex, and best wishes for the New Year. Thanks - I really enjoy your blog as well and have used it to pick out books to buy for the library.