“Violeta,” by Isabel Allende. (Random House)
Chilean writer Isabel Allende’s latest novel is “Violeta,” an epic tale that transports readers across a century of South American history, through economic collapse, dictatorship and natural disasters like an earthquake and a hurricane.
From the aftermath of World War I to the present day, narrator Violeta del Valle recounts the story of her life in an unnamed South American country with a book-long letter to her grandson Camilo.
Violeta tells of living through the Spanish flu pandemic as the youngest child and only daughter in a family of five sons. After her father loses everything in the Great Depression, the family must relinquish their comfort in an old mansion in the nation’s capital and adopt a more modest life in the country’s rural south.
“Violeta” recalls Allende’s best known and highly successful novel, “The House of Spirits,” which weaves together the personal and the political in a saga stretching across decades.
“Violeta” also details the horrors of the 1970s dictatorships in South America, which saw tens of thousands of suspected political opponents kidnapped, tortured and killed, often through Operation Condor, a U.S.-backed alliance among the region’s right-wing military governments.