The year is 1920, in an unnamed country in South America. Violeta is born into the Del Valles family with five boys, a father who takes risky ventures, and a mother who refuses to socialize.
Violeta relates her story in a form of a letter to someone she dearly loves. Through her eyes, we see dramatic changes in a span of one person’s lifetime. When the stock market crashes in September 1929, her father’s bold decisions leave the family in a dire situation. The oldest son, Jose Antonio, turns out to be the rock of the family, taking the lead and responsibility to provide for the family.
Violeta’s is the character of a woman who exemplifies a life lived to the fullest, despite all the challenges life serves her. And it brings many of them. She lives through political revolutions, tyranny, economic downfalls, and the natural disasters of earthquakes and pandemics. She is born into privilege, and with the Great Depression she tastes poverty, while being quick at adapting to circumstances. Some of her remaining spoiled traits are eradicated completely by farm work and participation in teaching basics to children in remote areas. As a young woman, she shows the ability to make money, while being prudent, careful and calculated—the opposite of her father. She marries a good man, but passion drives her to another, at times, causing her to lose her good judgement. She experiences motherhood with its blissful moments as well as some heartbreaks, including resentment of her own child.
As with all Isabel Allende’s work, the characters are richly textured and set against vivid historical background. The heartfelt writing authentically reflects the lives of Latin American people with a heroine, who is flawed, makes good decisions to prosper herself and her family, but struggles with making the right decisions when it comes to love. The story vividly illustrates a lifetime set during turbulent times, when one’s life’s circumstances can change in the blink of an eye and how one can still rise time and time again.
It is an inspiring story of a woman who lives her life passionately, and despite the challenging times for women of her time, she still lives it on her own terms.