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A Long Petal of the Sea: A Novel

A Long Petal of the Sea: A Novel

by Isabel Allende

Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini

Unabridged — 9 hours, 46 minutes

Isabel Allende
A Long Petal of the Sea: A Novel

A Long Petal of the Sea: A Novel

by Isabel Allende

Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini

Unabridged — 9 hours, 46 minutes

Isabel Allende

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Overview

From the New York Times best-selling author of The House of the Spirits, this epic novel spanning decades and crossing continents follows two young people as they flee the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War in search of a place to call home.

In the late 1930s, civil war grips Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them desires.

Together with two thousand other refugees, they embark on the SS Winnipeg, a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda, to Chile: "the long petal of sea and wine and snow." As unlikely partners, they embrace exile as the rest of Europe erupts in world war. Starting over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning, and over the course of their lives, they will face trial after trial. But they will also find joy as they patiently await the day when they will be exiles no more. Through it all, their hope of returning to Spain keeps them going. Destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world, Roser and Victor will find that home might have been closer than they thought all along.

A masterful work of historical fiction about hope, exile, and belonging, A Long Petal of the Sea shows Isabel Allende at the height of her powers.



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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

★ 10/07/2019

Spanning from 1938 to 1994, this majestic novel from Allende (In the Midst of Winter) focuses on Victor Dalmau, a 23-year-old medical student fighting in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side when the novel opens. After Nationalist forces prevail, Victor and thousands of other Republican sympathizers flee Spain to avoid brutal reprisals. In France, he searches the packed refugee camps for Roser Bruguera, who is pregnant with his brother Guillem’s child. Once he finds Roser, he breaks the news that Guillem has died in battle and that he has won a place on the Winnipeg, a ship that the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda has organized to transport Spanish refugees from Europe, where WWII is breaking out, to safety in Chile. Allowed to bring only family with him, Victor persuades Roser to marry him in name only. Though Victor has a brief, secret affair with well-off Ofelia del Solar, he begins to fall in love with Roser; they raise Roser’s son, Marcel, together and build stable lives, he as a cardiologist and she as a widely respected musician. But when the Pinochet dictatorship unseats Chile’s Marxist president in 1973, they find themselves once more endangered by their political views. Allende’s assured prose vividly evokes her fictional characters, historical figures like Neruda, and decades of complex international history; her imagery makes the suffering of war and displacement palpable yet also does justice to human strength, hope and rebirth. Seamlessly juxtaposing exile with homecoming, otherness with belonging, and tyranny with freedom, the novel feels both timeless and perfectly timed for today. (Jan.)

From the Publisher

Majestic . . . both timeless and perfectly timed for today . . . Allende’s assured prose vividly evokes her fictional characters [and] historical figures . . . seamlessly juxtaposing exile with homecoming, otherness with belonging, and tyranny with freedom.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A tale that is seductively intimate and strategically charming . . . a virtuoso of lucidly well-told, utterly enrapturing fiction . . . Allende deftly addresses war, displacement, violence, and loss in a novel of survival and love under siege.”Booklist (starred review)

A Long Petal of the Sea is a rich and transportive novel, epic in scope, about finding love and finding home.”PopSugar
 
“An absorbing story.”—AARP
 
“An immersive read about love and survival.”Real Simple
 
“Isabel Allende has time and again proven herself a master of magical realism. Her latest novel . . . serves as a paean to human love and endurance.”Elle
 
“Allende fans have been waiting with bated breath for her latest novel, and A Long Petal of the Sea doesn’t disappoint.”Marie Claire
 
“The wondrous Isabel Allende is back, doing what she does best.”Read It Forward
 
“In addition to being well-researched historical fiction, it also parallels current issues.”Book Riot
 
“Powerfully told, this is a soaring, inspirational tale.”The Orange County Register

“Allende . . . has deftly woven fact and fiction, history and memory, to create one of the most richly imagined portrayals of the Spanish Civil War to date, and one of the strongest and most affecting works in her long career.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
“Allende’s latest . . . marks a return to the time and setting of the book that jump-started her literary career, The House of the Spirits, but with far less supernatural elements and a more expansive engagement of revolution, exile and the determination of the human spirit. . . .  A page-turning story rich with history and surprising subplots that keep the novel unpredictable to the end.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“Isabel Allende’s A Long Petal of the Sea gets to the heart of immigrant struggle. . . . [It] begins, as it ends, with the heart. . . . Victor and Roser’s story is compelling. . . . Allende’s prose is both commanding and comforting. The author writes eloquently on the struggle of letting go of one culture to embrace a new one and shows that one’s origin story is not the whole story. . . . While debate and policy surround the issues of refugees and immigration, Allende reminds us that these issues, at their core, are made up of individuals and their love stories.” —USA Today

Library Journal

08/01/2019

Winner of the National Book Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award, Allende explores the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, as pregnant young widow Roser flees Franco's Spain with Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her dead husband. They enter a marriage of convenience to survive, boarding the SS Winnipeg for Chile—"the long petal of sea and wine and snow," as Pablo Neruda called it—as they learn what being in exile really means.

Kirkus Reviews

2019-09-02
Two refugees from the Spanish Civil War cross the Atlantic Ocean to Chile and a half-century of political and personal upheavals.

We meet Victor Dalmau and Roser Bruguera in 1938 as it is becoming increasingly clear that the Republican cause they support is doomed. When they reunite in France as penniless refugees, Roser has survived a harrowing flight across the Pyrenees while heavily pregnant and given birth to the son of Victor's brother Guillem, killed at the Battle of the Ebro. Victor, evacuated with the wounded he was tending in a makeshift hospital, learns of a ship outfitted by poet Pablo Neruda to take exiles to a new life in Chile, but he and Roser must marry in order to gain a berth. Allende (In the Midst of Winter, 2017, etc.) expertly sets up this forced intimacy between two very different people: Resolute, realistic Roser never looks back and doggedly pursues a musical career in Chile while Victor, despite being fast-tracked into medical school by socialist politician Salvador Allende (a relative of the author's), remains melancholy and nostalgic for his homeland. Their platonic affection deepens into physical love and lasting commitment in an episodic narrative that reaches a catastrophic climax with the 1973 coup overthrowing Chile's democratically elected government. For Victor and Roser, this is a painful reminder of their losses in Spain and the start of new suffering. The wealthy, conservative del Solar family provides a counterpoint to the idealistic Dalmaus; snobbish, right-wing patriarch Isidro and his hysterically religious wife, Laura, verge on caricature, but Allende paints more nuanced portraits of eldest son Felipe, who smooths the refugees' early days in Chile, and daughter Ofelia, whose brief affair with Victor has lasting consequences. Allende tends to describe emotions and events rather than delve into them, and she paints the historical backdrop in very broad strokes, but she is an engaging storyteller. A touching close in 1994 brings one more surprise and unexpected hope for the future to 80-year-old Victor.

A trifle facile, but this decades-spanning drama is readable and engrossing throughout.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940173809025
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 03/12/2022
Edition description: Unabridged

Read an Excerpt

The most outstanding pianist among Professor Dalmau’s students was Roser Bruguera, a young girl from the village of Santa Fe de Segarra who, had it not been for the generous intervention of Santiago Guzman, would have shepherded goats all her life. Guzman, from an illustrious family that had fallen on hard times thanks to generations of lazy sons who squandered money and lands, was spending his last years in an isolated mansion surrounded by mountains and rocks, but full of sentimental memories. He had been a professor of history at the Central University in the days of King Alfonso XII, and remained quite active despite his advanced years.

He went out every day, in the fierce August sun and the icy January winds, walking for hours with his pilgrim’s staff, battered leather hat, and hunting dog. His wife was lost in the labyrinths of dementia, and spent her days being cared for inside the house, creating monsters with paper and paint. In the village she was known as the Gentle Lunatic, and that’s what she was: she didn’t cause any problems, apart from her tendency to get lost as she set off toward the horizon, and to paint the walls with her own excrement.

Roser was about seven years old when on one of his walks Don Santiago saw her looking after a few skinny goats. It was enough for him to exchange a few words with her to realize that she possessed a lively and inquiring mind. The professor and the little goatherd established a strange friendship based on the lessons in culture he gave her, and her desire to learn. One winter’s day, when he came upon her crouched shivering in a ditch with her three goats, soaked from the rain and flushed with fever, Don Santiago tied up the goats and slung her over his shoulder like a sack, thankful she was so small and weighed so little. Even so, the effort almost killed him, and after a few steps he gave up. Leaving her where she was, he hurried on and called to one of his laborers, who carried her to the house. Don Santiago told his cook to give her something to eat, instructed his housemaids to prepare a bath and bed for her, and the stable boy to go first to Santa Fe and find the doctor, and then to look for the goats before someone stole them.

The doctor said the girl had influenza and was malnourished. She also had scabies and lice. Since nobody came to the Guzman house asking after her either on that day or any of the following ones, they assumed she was an orphan, until in the end they asked her directly and she explained that her family lived on the other side of the mountain. In spite of being as frail as a partridge, the young girl recovered rapidly, because she turned out to be stronger than she looked. She allowed them to shave her head to get rid of the lice, and didn’t resist the sulfur treatment they used for the scabies. She ate voraciously and showed signs of having a placid temperament that was at odds with her sad situation.

In the weeks she spent in the mansion, everyone, from the delirious mistress to all the servants, became deeply attached to her. They had never had a little girl in that stone house haunted by semi-feral cats and ghosts from past ages. The most infatuated was the professor, who was vividly reminded of the privilege of teaching an avid mind, but even he realized that her stay with them could not go on forever. He waited for her to recover completely and to put some flesh on her bones, then decided to visit the far side of the mountain and tell her negligent parents a few hard truths. Ignoring his wife’s pleas, he installed her, well wrapped up in his carriage, and took her off.

They came to a low muddy shack at the edge of the village, one of many wretched places in the area. The peasants lived on starvation wages, working on the land as serfs for big landowners or the Church. The professor called out, and several frightened children came to the door, followed by a witch dressed in black. She was not, as Don Santiago first thought, the girl’s great-grandmother, but was in fact Roser’s mother. These villagers had never received the visit of a carriage with gleaming horses before, and were dumbstruck when they saw Roser climbing out of it with such a distinguished-looking gentleman. ‘I’ve come to talk to you about this child,’ Don Santiago began in the authoritarian tone that had once struck fear into his university students. Before he could continue, the woman grabbed Roser by the hair and started shouting and slapping her, accusing her of the loss of their goats. The professor immediately understood there was no point reproaching this exhausted woman for anything, and on the spot came up with a plan that would drastically alter the girl’s destiny.

Roser spent the rest of her childhood in the Guzman mansion, officially adopted and taken in as the mistress’s personal servant, but also as the professor’s pupil. In exchange for helping the maids and bringing the Gentle Lunatic solace, she was given board and an education. The historian shared a good part of his library with her, taught her more than she would have learned in any school, and let her practice on the grand piano once played by his wife, who now could no longer recall what on earth this huge black monster was for. Roser, who during the first seven years of her life had heard no music at all apart from the drunkards’ accordions on Saint John’s Eve, turned out to have an extraordinary good ear. There was an old cylinder phonograph in the house, but as soon as Don Santiago realized his protégée could play tunes on the piano after listening to them only once, he ordered a modern gramophone from Madrid, together with a collection of records. Within a short time Roser Brugera, whose feet still didn’t reach the pedals, could play the music from the records with her eyes closed. Delighted, he found her a music teacher in Santa Fe, sent her there three times a week, and personally supervised her practice sessions. Roser, who was able to play anything from memory, didn’t see much point in learning to read music or to practice the same scales for hours, but did so out of respect for her mentor.

By the time she was fourteen, Roser was far more accomplished than her teacher, and at fifteen Don Santiago installed her in a guest house for young Catholic ladies in Barcelona so that she could continue her music studies. He would have liked to keep her by his side, but his duty as an educator won out over his paternal instinct. He decided that the girl had received a special talent from God, and his role in this world was to help her develop it. It was around this time that the Gentle Lunatic began to fade away, and in the end died without any fuss. Alone in his mansion, Santiago Guzman began increasingly to feel the weight of his years. He had to give up his walks with his pilgrim’s staff and the time spent reading by the hearth. His hunting dog also died, and he was loath to replace it because he didn’t want to die first and leave the animal without a master.

The arrival of Spain’s Second Republic in 1931 embittered the old man. As soon as the election results favoring the Left became known, King Alfonso XIII left for exile in France, and Don Santiago, monarchist, staunch conservative and Catholic that he was, saw his world collapsing around him. He could never tolerate the Reds, still less adapt to their vulgar ways: those ruthless people were lackeys of the Soviets who went around burning churches and executing priests. The idea that everyone was equal was fine as a theoretical slogan, he said, but in practice it was an aberration. We are not equal in the eyes of God, because He was the one who created social classes and other distinctions among mankind. The agrarian reform stripped Don Santiago of his land, which was not worth a great deal but had belonged to his family forever.

From one day to the next, the peasants spoke to him without doffing their caps or lowering their eyes. His inferiors’ insolence was more painful than the loss of his land, because it was a direct affront to his dignity and the position he had always held in this world. He dismissed all the servants who had lived under his roof for decades, had his library, paintings, other collections and memorabilia packed up, and closed his house under lock and key. All this filled three moving vans, but he couldn’t take the biggest pieces of furniture or the grand piano, because they wouldn’t fit into his Madrid apartment. A few months later, the Republican mayor of Santa Fe confiscated the house and turned it into an orphanage.

Among the many grave disappointments and reasons for anger Don Santiago suffered in those years was the transformation of his protégé. Under the bad influence of the troublemakers at the university, and in particular that of a certain Professor Marcel Lluis Dalmau, a communist, socialist, or anarchist—in the end, it was all the same thing—his Roser had turned into a Red. She had left the guest house for young ladies of good repute and was living with some hoydens who dressed as soldiers and practiced free love, which is what promiscuity and indecency had come to be called. He had to admit that Roser never showed him any lack of respect, but since she took it upon herself to ignore his warnings, he naturally had to withdraw his support for her. She wrote him a letter thanking him with all her soul for everything he had done for her, promising she would always follow the right path according to her own principles, and explaining she was working at night in a bakery and continuing to study music by day.

Don Santiago Guzman, installed in his luxurious Madrid apartment, where he could barely make his way through the clutter of furniture and other objects, and protected from the noise and vulgar uproar in the streets by heavy drapes the color of bull’s blood, socially isolated by his deafness and boundless pride, was blissfully unaware of how the most terrible rancor was surfacing in his country, a rancor that had been feeding on the wretchedness of some and the arrogance of others. He died alone and irate in his apartment in the Salamanca district four months before the uprising spearheaded by Franco’s troops. He was lucid to the end, and so accepting of death that he prepared his own obituary, to avoid some ignorant person publishing untruths about him.

He said farewell to no one, possibly because there was nobody close to him still alive, but he did remember Roser Bruguera, and in a noble gesture of reconciliation left her the grand piano, which was still being stored in the new orphanage at Santa Fe.

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