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Violeta by Isabel Allende: One Hundred Years on the South American Continent

Mhairi MacLeod

Friday, 29 April 2022

Author of La casa de los espíritus, Isabel Allende, has recently released her new novel, Violeta, spanning South American history from the Spanish flu to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mhairi, gives us the lowdown on the novel and the value of reading the work in Spanish.

For those who study Spanish or have an interest in the Spanish language, the author Isabel Allende will be a very familiar name. The phenomenal Chilean author has sold millions of books around the world that have been translated into at least 33 languages.

Since its publication at the start of the year, Allende’s latest novel Violeta has been met with great success. A spellbinding story that follows one woman during her one hundred years on earth. From the beginnings of the Spanish flu in 1920s South America right up until the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the novel is a testimony to the unbreakable family bond through disaster, political upheaval, economic hardship, and violence.

So what is this story all about?

Violeta is born one stormy day in 1920s South America, just as the Spanish flu has started to infiltrate the continent. The youngest girl in a family of five sons, she is born into an affluent family however this fortune does not last as the effects of the Great Depression eventually come to haunt them. The family loses everything they own, including the grand mansion in which they live, so they are forced to reside in the rural countryside, a stark difference from their previous life. This is where the young Violeta grows into a woman who will face the world and throughout the book, we follow her on this reminiscent and reflective journey. The novel is written in the form of a letter to Camilo, a person who we later discover has great significance in Violeta’s life, and it is set against the backdrop of historical and political events in South America. Without giving too much away, this is certainly an eventful read with multiple references to socialist movements, dictatorships, political exile, and democracy. Whilst this sounds very heavy and serious, the novel is also peppered with saucy romantic endeavours, exciting and funny extracts from Violeta and her bold tone is a constant throughout.

It must be said that this novel does not come close to Allende’s most successful and award-winning La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Sprits), nevertheless Violeta is still an epic family saga that spans multiple generations in true Allende style. You’ll find strong, passionate women at the forefront of Allende’s stories and this is especially the case in Violeta, a story about women who stand up for their rights and fight for their voices to be heard throughout their lifetime.

For Spanish language enthusiasts and learners, there is so much to be learnt from Allende’s novels. Whether that be from tackling her stories in Spanish whilst accompanied by perseverance and a good Spanish dictionary or for the curious who wish to learn more about South American history and politics. Isabel Allende’s novels are a truly enriching experience that will project your language and cultural knowledge leaps and bounds ahead.

Note: Please look up the trigger warnings before reading this book.


About the Author

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Barbara Dawson

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Lovely tasty dish. Try it you won’t be disappointed.

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Aunty Liz

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Very tasty and cheap. I often have this for tea!

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Being a bilingual family (French mother and British father,) living in France I thought your article was extremely interesting . Have you research on bilingualism ? It seems that when the mother is British and the father French and they both live in France their children seem to be more bilingual than when the mother is French and the father is British . This is what we called mother tongue , isn't it ?

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Such an interesting article!

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