By Sam Jacquest
I’m a sucker for a good romance, but A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende is so much more than that.
Opening at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, A Long Petal of the Sea is a book about responsibility and family duty. Our main character Victor is thrown into the war despite his mild political beliefs. He chooses to save lives rather than take them, and uses his limited medical training to save the lives of his comrades, quickly earning a reputation as a miracle worker for his miraculous life-saving technique on a dying young soldier.
When Franco’s party defeats the Republican Army, Victor is left with the difficult task of getting his family to safety as refugees. This leads him to make a rash and life-altering decision: marry his brother’s widow, a pregnant young pianist he had always considered a sister, in order to save both their lives.
While outsiders see Victor as a hero and his wife Roser as a strong mother and loving wife, readers know the struggles the couple grapple with, including fear for their lives, worry of their future, and passion unfulfilled. While romance seems a privilege they both may never obtain, they find comfort in each other as friends and family.
This novel is filled with political drama, illicit affairs, family secrets, and life-changing revelations. Although Allende is not a fan of subtle foreshadowing (rather, she gives us spoilers throughout the book, which is not my favorite storytelling technique), there are still plenty of surprises throughout the book that kept me craving more.
4 out of 5 stars