Allende’s latest historical fiction novel follows two young Spanish people as they flee the Spanish Civil War in 1938. Roser is a pregnant widow; Victor is the brother of her deceased lover. Their flight to the French border is harrowing. Eventually they are chosen by the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to immigrate to Chile but must be married to qualify for the journey. Thus, a long caring relationship is initiated in a new country. A replay of the Spanish Civil War conflict is encountered by the military overthrow of the Allende government in 1973, another battle between freedom and repression. After a 12-year exile in Venezuela, Roser and Victor return to Chile which is their true home. This is an epic story told with Allende’s typical lucidity.
This was Allende’s first novel, published in 1982, and it represents outstanding story telling. The characters are all so vivid: the mercurial Esteban with his legendary temper; three generations of strong women – Clara (a delightful clairvoyant), Blanca and Alba. The story, of course, shows the evolution of the Chilean tragedy; the last 100 pages gives a brutal account of the coup with all the violence, lies and deceit. A great read.