Violeta (Book Review)
It’s been a long time since I’ve read an Isabel Allende novel, but I do recall loving The House of the Spirits back in the day. My memory of that book is nothing at all like my experience with Violeta.
The best way I can describe this book is that it narrates events without passion or urgency, in an unnamed country, through the eyes of a narrator we never come to know. I felt extremely distanced from the story’s events throughout the whole book. Though tragedy strikes often — suicide, life-or-death medical emergencies, to name a couple — I felt it was told in such a cold, detached way, almost as if the narrator was reading from a textbook, not describing the events that befell her own family.
Actually, that paragraph I just wrote is telling. I cannot help myself referring to Violeta as simply “the narrator” because that is how she came across. I often find books where an elderly person recounts their life story very effective, but something about it here made it difficult to ever warm to the characters or feel attached to their circumstances.
The story is that of 100-year-old Violeta’s life, written for her grandson. It takes us from her childhood raised by an Irish governess somewhere in South America (never said where but contains oblique references to pandemics and military takeovers) to her marriage, an abusive relationship and the arrival of her two children.
Though the suicide of one’s father, a whirlwind romance that turns abusive, and a child with a drug addiction are all horrific things for a person to experience, Violeta’s narrative voice remains flat and unmoving from beginning to end.
Anyone got better Allende recommendations for me than this one?