Book Review: A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

A Long Petal of the Sea…

About the Book:

September 3, 1939, the day of the Spanish exiles’ splendid arrival in Chile, the Second World War broke out in Europe.

Victor Dalmau is a young doctor when he is caught up in the Spanish Civil War, a tragedy that leaves his life – and the fate of his country – forever changed. Together with his sister-in-law, the pianist Roser, he is forced out of his beloved Barcelona and into exile.

When opportunity to seek refuge arises, they board a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda to Chile, the promised ‘long petal of sea and wine and snow’. There, they find themselves enmeshed in a rich web of characters who come together in love and tragedy over the course of four generations, destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world.

A masterful work of historical fiction that soars from the Spanish Civil War to the rise and fall of Pinochet, A Long Petal of the Sea is Isabel Allende at the height of her powers.

My Thoughts:

A Long Petal of the Sea is a beautifully moving love letter to Chile and while Allende never disappoints, even with the bar set so high, I was still swept away by how glorious this novel is. It is in many ways stylistically reminiscent of narrative non-fiction. The Spanish Civil War preceding WWII and the political turbulence of Chile throughout the decades from the 1940s through to the 1990s is finitely detailed. But as is the way with Allende, she can even write political history with a fluidity that is almost poetic.

‘This is a novel, but the events and historical individuals are real. The characters are fictional, inspired by people I’ve known. I have had to imagine very little, because as I was doing the exhaustive research I carry out for each novel, I found I had more than enough material. This book wrote itself, as if it had been dictated to me.’ – Isabel Allende

I loved this novel. It is, in my opinion, a modern master piece. Chile is like its own character, with just as much presence as Victor or Roser within any scene. This is a novel that is so enriched by culture, love, compassion, and loyalty. Reading it was a joy that I was reluctant to let go of. Victor and Roser just might be my favourite literary couple of all time now. Their love, particularly as their marriage aged, was such a beautiful testimony to devotion and kinship, an evolution of feelings between two people who have lived in the face of loss and know that freedom can be, and is all too often, transient. The poetry of Pablo Neruda prefaces each chapter, offering context and beauty of prose that compliments this story to perfection. All the stars for this one. And then some.


Thanks is extended to Bloomsbury for providing me with a copy of A Long Petal of the Sea for review.

About the Author:

Isabel Allende—novelist, feminist, and philanthropist—is one of the most widely-read authors in the world, having sold more than 74 million books. Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel won worldwide acclaim in 1982 with the publication of her first novel, The House of the Spirits, which began as a letter to her dying grandfather. Since then, she has authored more than twenty three bestselling and critically acclaimed books, including Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, Daughter of Fortune, Island Beneath the Sea, Paula, The Japanese Lover and In the Midst of Winter. Translated into more than forty two languages. Allende’s works entertain and educate readers by interweaving imaginative stories with significant historical events.
In addition to her work as a writer, Allende devotes much of her time to human rights causes. In 1996, following the death of her daughter Paula, she established a charitable foundation in her honour, which has awarded grants to more than 100 non-profits worldwide, delivering life-changing care to hundreds of thousands of women and girls. More than 8 million have watched her TED Talks on leading a passionate life.
She has received fifteen honorary doctorates, including one from Harvard University, was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, received the PEN Centre Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Allende the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, and in 2018 she received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. She lives in California. Her website is

A Long Petal of the Sea
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Released 21st January 2020

I just wanted to include a photo of my edition as it differs from the one pictured on the publisher website. I love the metallic shimmer and the slip case has a beautiful textured feel to it as well. It’s so lovely that beautiful books are still being made, despite the large-scale shift to mass produced paperbacks and digital editions.

15 thoughts on “Book Review: A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

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