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Violet by Isabel Allende

This far-reaching novel by the New York Times bestselling author of A long petal of the sea tells the epic of Violeta Del Valle, a woman whose life spans a hundred years and bears witness to the greatest upheavals of the 20th century.

Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first daughter of a family with five rambunctious sons. From the start, his life is marked by extraordinary events, as the aftermath of the Great War is still felt, even as the Spanish flu lands on the shores of his South American homeland almost at the time of his birth.

Thanks to her father’s foresight, the family will weather this crisis unscathed, only to face a new one as the Great Depression transforms the genteel city life they once knew. Her family loses everything and is forced to retreat to a wild and beautiful but remote part of the country. There, she will reach her majority and her first suitor will come to call her.

She tells her story in the form of a letter to someone she loves above all else, recounting moments of devastating grief and passionate business, poverty and wealth, terrible loss and immense joy. Her life is shaped by some of the most significant events in history: the struggle for women’s rights, the rise and fall of tyrants and, ultimately, not one, but two pandemics.

Through the eyes of a woman whose passion, determination and unforgettable sense of humor carry her through an upended life, Isabel Allende once again brings us an epic that is both fiercely inspiring and deeply moving.

Reasons to read it: For a historical novel told by a century-old narrator that feels as real as if it were a memoir. This personal epic paints a haunting portrait of all the relationships – family members, friends – that come and go over a hundred-year life. Violeta tells her grandson through letters how she grew up with a country that has no name but can be compared to Chile, surviving military coups and revolts just as she survived abusive relationships. Violeta balances the trauma in her life with many examples of joy.

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