Top positive review
A great story of love and survival
Reviewed in the United States on September 7, 2019
Over the years, I've read most of Isabel Allende's books. Some I've liked, others not so much. This one I really enjoyed.
As she says in her acknowledgements at the end of the book, Allende mined her own family stories to create the framework for this novel. It starts during the brutal Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and ends in the 1990s in Chile. While there are a number of major, well-drawn characters, the focus of the book is a couple who made a "marriage of convenience" in order to flee to Chile at the end of the Spanish Civil War. They favored the losing side, and it wasn't safe to stay.
After a dangerous flight over the French border and near starvation in refugee camps, Victor Dalmau, a medic, and Roser Bruguera, is a young pianist who was taken in by Victor's parents, are able to reach Chile. Roser is pregnant by Guillem, Victor's brother and a fighter in the Civil War. But when it comes time for Victor and Roser to escape, Guillem has not been heard from for some time and is feared dead. In order to emigrate, the couple have to marry. So they agree on a marriage of convenience, and take a boat with thousands of other refugees to Chile.
All of that takes up about the first half of the book; the rest is about their experiences over the decades in South America. There are quite a few twists of fate, due to their own restless hearts and also because of the precarious political situation that develops in the country. But through it all, the pair do their best to survive, for their own sakes and that of Guillem's son, Marcel.
Isabel Allenda is a marvelous storyteller. Her prose is spare but descriptive, and she keeps the plot moving through more than 50 years of history. This is one of my favorites of her books.