A Long Petal of the Sea: A Novel

A Long Petal of the Sea: A Novel

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the 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.

“One of the most richly imagined portrayals of the Spanish Civil War to date, and one of the strongest and most affecting works in [Isabel Allende’s] long career.”—The New York Times Book Review

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.

Praise for A Long Petal of the Sea

“Both an intimate look at the relationship between one man and one woman and an epic story of love, war, family, and the search for home, this gorgeous novel, like all the best novels, transports the reader to another time and place, and also sheds light on the way we live now.”—J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Saints for All Occasions

“This is a novel not just for those of us who have been Allende fans for decades, but also for those who are brand-new to her work: What a joy it must be to come upon Allende for the first time. She knows that all stories are love stories, and the greatest love stories are told by time.”—Colum McCann, National Book Award–winning author of Let the Great World Spin

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781984820167
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/21/2020
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 307
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of a number of bestselling and critically acclaimed books, including The House of the Spirits, Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, Paula, and In the Midst of Winter. Her books have been translated into more than forty-two languages and have sold more than seventy-four million copies worldwide. She lives in California.


San Rafael, California

Date of Birth:

August 2, 1942

Place of Birth:

Lima, Peru

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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A Long Petal of the Sea: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
shirley larson 3 months ago
I liked this book.
Victoria Benoit 4 hours ago
Character development and historical backdrop, kept me touched and involved !
Heidi Hanson 6 days ago
Stewart Barrier 7 days ago
So apt for our times. i'm in my early seventies, a time of loooking back on my life, and a time looking forward to older age. So much about family and love, and war and disappointment yet the need to go on to help those who I can and become a better person than I have been and not to quit until the end.
bookluvr35SL 24 days ago
In the late 1930s, as civil war grips Spain, Roser and Victor are forced to flee the country. Roser is a pregnant young widow and sister-in-law to Victor Dalmau, an army doctor. They marry to ensure safety for themselves and the unborn baby, but agree it is a marriage in name only. The two board the SS Winnipeg to Chile: “the long petal of sea and wine and snow.” There they not only build a new life, but they discover that years of friendship can blossom into something deeper. I have mixed feelings about this book. There were parts that I truly enjoyed and parts (mainly the parts about the war) that made my eyes glaze over from all of the details. I hadn't read anything about the Spanish Civil War before so I was completely unfamiliar with this section of history. It was very well researched and seemed to cover it thoroughly.
ginnybee 26 days ago
I love Isabel Allende,s books. This one is exceptional, The history of the Spanish civil war is often regarded as a practice for WW II without remembering the horrible suffering experienced by the Spanish people,
HalKid2 27 days ago
This is a multi-generational family saga that begins in the late 1930s with the Spanish Civil War, moves to France, then on to Chile, Venezuela, and back to Chile. As the novel begins, teenage Roser Bruguera is a poor Spanish farm girl with an uncanny gift for music. Moving into the home of a prominent music teacher to study, she promptly falls in love with the professor's younger son, Guillem. Enter General Francisco Franco and the Fascists who oust the left-leaning Republican government in Spain after three years of bloody war. Tens of thousands of refugees flee Spain for France, among them a pregnant Roser, aided by the professor's older son, Victor, a physician. France, however, about to plunge into World War II, doesn't want refugees and immediately confines them to ill-equipped concentration camps. Recognizing the urgent need to get out of Europe, Victor and Roser find themselves in the orbit of Spanish Poet Pablo Neruda, who happens to be shepherding some two thousand refugees to Chile on the S. S. Winnepeg (true story). I won't include more details about how the lives of Roser and Victor unfold over the next 50 years. It's a story that explores the nature of love and and complexity of family loyalty. About class inequality, politics, and the successive turnover of governments in Chile during the 1970s and 1980s. And the consequences to apolitical people, who simply want to live their lives. I have read all of Isabel Allende's novels -- in part because of the beautiful way she uses language. I was not, however, struck by that in reading this novel. Though this may be the result of different translator. Because this narration struck me as much more straightforward, less crafted.
bella79954 28 days ago
I really struggled with this book and was shocked as I really enjoy Allende's work. [book:Ines of My Soul|16562] being my favorite of her books. I enjoyed the beginning, Roser comes from nothing and is adopted by a wealthy man and she has a gift for the piano. She falls in love with a young soldier who dies before their son is born. His brother Victor marries her to give the boy a father and to help her get to Chile with him. You see, people are fleeing Spain and Roser and Victor can get on a boat sailing to Chile. He is a doctor and she is a musician. They can contribute to their new country and make a life for themselves there. Their book follows their life together, how they grow individually and together. How they share a deep bond and how they survive through their travels. There are many themes here and this book is based on historical facts, but it just failed to grab me. It is slow moving and that is part of the issue. It is a slow burn and normally I don't mind that but, in this case, it didn't work for me. I don't know if it was my mood at the time or my inability to connect with her story telling. This is one of those books that I can say, I enjoyed but it won’t stay with me for long. Again, this took me by surprise as I normally have thoroughly enjoyed all her books. I encourage readers to read all reviews are decide for yourselves. Thank you to Random House Publishing House Publishing Group - Ballantine and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
literarymuseVC 29 days ago
Roser and Victor Dalmau agree to marry in Spain after General Franco wins control of the government over the Republicans in the late 1930’s. Roser’s husband died during that conflict and his brother Victor, who learned to be a doctor during the Civil War, is determined to get them out of Spain as Franco’s government is tyrannical and devastating to millions. This novel is their story. What starts as a brother-sister relationship will develop into a phenomenal, glorious love. Their journey will take them to France, Chile and Venezuela. Governments in those countries were also in flux. Before they get there, Victor has a brief fling with a spoiled, aristocratic Spanish woman. She has a child who is given up for adoption, a fact Victor never learns until he is much older. Victor becomes a good friend of Pablo Neruda the poet, who writes a poem about Chile, written on the ship called “Winnipeg” that gives this novel its title. Pablo is a Socialist and becomes persecuted and hunted because of his political beliefs; but it turns out he is mainly concerned with the love of people and freedom. He is responsible for two thousand refuges being allowed to emigrate from Spain to Chile. These refugees soon develop a fine reputation for being responsible families who improve conditions in Chile. This is a family saga about those who face constant trials but do their best to work hard and avoid controversy. Their debacle in each of these countries is heartbreaking. Victor becomes a tough man as he experiences the horrors of war which he experienced as a medic and later as a doctor in Chile. Allende’s earlier novels are more about the Pinochet government in Chile but here we also get a glimmer of the military horrors creating suffering and death for far too many. Victor earns a reputation as an intelligent, capable and kind cardiologist. Rosa is pragmatic, hard-working and loyally protective of Victor. His vanity is shattered when his love Rosa becomes terminally ill. What is unique about this family saga is how positive these characters are even in the face of the most daunting challenges. It’s a beautiful tribute to the power of love and loyalty, faith and hope in mankind no matter what the prevailing political challenges and, like the title poem, a tribute to beautiful people and lands prevailing in victory even when caught in the prevailing tides and currents testing the mettle of those riding the formidable journey into a more hopeful existence.
4469080 29 days ago
How history and families evolve and the beautiful results. Great read and couldn't put down.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Allende has written a fictionalized history of her beloved Chile, and especially that group of Spaniards fleeing almost certain death from Franco’s Fascist regime, who are able to emigrate to Chile thanks to Pablo Neruda’s arranged ship, the Winnipeg. Two families, the del Solars and the Dalmaus, are intertwined against the backdrop of 20th century Spanish and Chilean history, class struggles, of privilege and poverty, and Marxism and social democracy. She effortlessly educates us while holding us enthralled in the unfurling lives of these two families, their secrets and an unanticipated surprise ending. No two of the books I’ve read by Allende are like another and in this one she has hit it right out of the ballpark. During the 1980s I met a woman at the University where I worked who returned home to Chile on spring break. She returned with tales of horror, of the unregulated military that spread fear and terror, of hiding under a bed in her mother’s house while listening to soldiers shouting and shooting in the streets. That’s when I learned who Pinochet was. Later she formed home visits like Avon parties to expose us, her peers to the desaparecidos and the families who mourned them. Women had stitched pillows with the names of their lost loved one and they were available for us to purchase to raise money and awareness. It seemed like so little to ask for so great a need.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Allende’s latest novel starts out in 1938 Spain, at the height of the Spanish Civil War. After the triumph of Franco and the Fascists, Victor and his late brother’s pregnant girlfriend, Roser, set out to cross the Pyrenees into France. Against all odds, they survive, and eventually make their way to Chile. There, Victor attends medical school, marries Roser, who is a concert pianist, and they live in peace until the 1973 right wing coup causes them to suffer once again. Allende, who has done extensive research (and, as a Chilean, is writing about a time she lived through) provides a compelling insider’s look at events I knew very little about. Thanks to Random House and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC.
DragonNimbus 3 months ago
I expect excellence from Isabel Allende and was not disappointed. A Long Petal of the Sea didn't have the typical romantic narrative I'm used to, nor should it have. The description of the frontline of the war and the horrors and hardships experienced by the military as well as the civilians was so difficult to read because it was so realistic and detailed. The plot concerns Victor Dalmau, an army medic, and his brother and parents. Guillem, his brother, comes home with typhus. His mother and their boarder, Roser, care for him and as expected Guillem and Roser fall in love and Roser becomes pregnant. Guillem is sent back to the front and killed in action. The war increases in intensity and Roser and Mrs. Dalmau are forced to flee across the Pyrenees to France. Only Roser survives the trip and meets up with Victor who is forced to marry her to be able to evacuate to Chile on a harrowing voyage by sea. This was an amazing book but not a very comfortable read. Allende's descriptions were very thorough which was a little more than I could stomach. Fans of realistic historical fiction will enjoy this, but don't expect a tidy romance.
trutexan 3 months ago
I’ve enjoyed some of Isabel Allende’s previous novels and her most recent was certainly no exception. Allende is such a gifted storyteller. Even better is the fact that this novel is based on historical events. I must admit, I know very little about Spanish history, especially the Spanish Civil War that occurred during the late 1930’s. I was surprised to read that Spanish citizens had to flee the country for safety. Two of these citizens who fled were Roser and Victor. Roser, who was pregnant with Victor’s brother’s child, fled with help from Victor and one of his friends. She stays for a time in France and soon she and Victor are re-united. After learning that Victor’s brother has died, the two make a decision to marry in order for them to be able to emigrate to Chile. Unfortunately for the couple, in later years they will face more strife in Chile due to political upheaval. On a more positive note, what began as a marriage of convenience, ends up being the love of a lifetime for Victor and Roser. I found this to be a very engrossing story, although there was a bit more politics than I was expecting. Many thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for allowing to read an advance copy and give an honest review
bamcooks 3 months ago
One thing I love about reading is the vicarious thrill I get from being immersed in situations beyond my own experiences, my own lifetime. Allende's latest book of historical fiction first takes us to Spain in the 1930s where we experience the Spanish Civil War firsthand through the lives of the Dalmau family and later their desperate escape to France when all hope is lost and General Francisco Franco grasps controls of their country. Eventually, with the help of poet Pablo Neruda and the ship of hope named The Winnipeg he has arranged to transport refugees of the war, the Dalmau family makes it to Chile just as the Second World War begins back in Europe. They have great hopes of starting over in this new country on a new continent, but even here, politics continue to make life unstable and precarious. One part sounded a warning, even for us in the U.S., of the need for compromise, as mother and son discuss the political situation in Chile in the 1970s: "What we saw in Spain can happen here." Mother warns. "Allende says there'll never be fratricidal conflict here. The government and people will prevent it." replies her son. "That comrade of yours is too naive by half. Chile is divided into irreconcilable groups, son. Friends are fighting, families are split down the middle; it's impossible to talk to anyone who doesn't think as you do. I don't see many of my old friends anymore so that we don't fight." Sound familiar? Although Allende's story is fictional, it is based on historical fact and she peoples it with several historical figures such as Neruda and Salvador Allende. But it is the characters she imagines that are the most touching as we follow the Dalmau family through their lives full of turmoil but also great love. The title of the book comes from Neruda's definition of Chile 'as a long petal of sea and wine and snow...with a belt of back and white foam.' Each chapter begins with a bit of Neruda's poetry--very lovely. Beautiful cover artwork too. I was fortunate to be given an arc of Allende's new book by the publisher via netGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to them for the opportunity.
jdowell 3 months ago
Isabel Allende is a favorite author for me. Allende's books always seem to allow travel to so many countries! This one started in Spain, and spent time France, Chile, Argentina, and the United States. The focus of the book is an epic journey of the lives of Victor Dalmau (an army doctor), and Roser (Victor's late brother's pregnant girlfriend. They flee Spain during the Spanish Civil War, just before World War II, and cross the Pyranees into France. Somehow they made it aboard a ship carrying refugees to Chile. They made their home there and things are peaceful for awhile, but it seems trouble can't help but find these two people. They face many hurdles during the course of the story. I enjoyed following their lives and their remarkable journey. Their lives were remarkable. I found at the end that this book was based on actual events and historical figures even though the book is a work of fiction. Thanks to Isabel Allende and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine through Netgalley for an advance copy of this book.
MKF 3 months ago
Wait-don't skip by this because you've heard Allende novels are filled with magical realism. This one isn't, which might disappoint those who love her for that, but which makes it a good introduction for others to Allende's world and to the sometimes tortuous history of Chile. Victor and Roser are thrown together when her husband and his brother is killed during the civil war in Spain. They are lucky to be able to emigrate to Chile and build a life there, which is, sadly, disrupted once again by the 1973 coup. Their marriage of convenience eventually blossoms into something more as they both find their places, he as a physician and she as a musician. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. There's a lot of history in these pages, which at times is more interesting than the characters but it's a worthy and interesting read.
PaulAllard 3 months ago
A family "saga" from the Spanish Civil War to post-Pinochet Chile - well-written stuff This novel by Isabel Allende, based on a true story and true events, tells us about Victor, a medical student in Republican Spain of the 1930s, as he lives through - and survives - the Spanish Civil War, exile to Chile, the Pinochet regime, more exile and eventual return to his homeland. Along the way, we encounter members of his family, friends and political opponents as well as the poet, Pablo Neruda. His life is a life of adventure, degradation and love. Characters are interesting and well-developed and the whole story, although inevitably depressing in places, is important and engrossing. Recommended, especially to admirers of Isabel Allende. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Vicki Saia 18 days ago
l did not enjoy this book.