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REVIEW | Allende's novel Violeta reads like a real-life story, bracketed by two pandemics

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Violeta by Isabel Allende.
Violeta by Isabel Allende.

BOOK: Violeta by Isabel Allende (Bloomsbury).

Violeta is a novel written as a letter from a grandmother to her grandson. Violeta, the narrator, is a combination of Isabel Allende's own recently deceased mother, herself, and "a lot of imagination". From the outset, she immerses the reader in a South American country easily recognisable as Chile, though she never says so. The story of Violeta's life is bookended by two pandemics – the so-called Spanish Flu of 1918 and Covid-19, which has not yet finished with humanity.

Violeta was born in 1920, the year the flu virus reached Santiago, where her family was living in Camellia House, a beautiful old mansion with a large staff. She was the first girl born after five boys, and there were also two aunts, Pia and Pilar, in the household. At the outset of the pandemic, they added two mastiffs as a precaution against robbery and plunder, which they thought might happen if society collapsed. Violeta's mother also made other preparations for survival.

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