“The young soldier was part of the “Baby Bottle Conscription,” the boys called up when there were no more men, young or old, to fight the war. Victor Dalmau received him with the other wounded taken from the supply truck and laid out like logs on mats.”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are lines from Isabel Allende’s newest novel A Long Petal of the Sea. The year is 1938 and the soldiers are fighting in Spain’s civil war when General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government.
Victor is the physician who saved the young soldier’s life by massaging his heart. Victor’s life becomes intwined with his dead brother’s pregnant lover, Roser. Together they escape to France and then board the ship the SS Winnipeg that takes them to Chile. Once in Chile they are offered temporary shelter with the wealthy family Del Solar which begins their life long association with them.
Fifteen years later with Chile facing its own political upheaval, Victor spends eleven months in a concentration camp until he is rescued by Roser. They escape once more, this time to Venezuela. After a number of years living in what seems like luxury, they return to Chile to live out the rest of their lives.
Translated from Spanish, this is an epic story of love, loss, perseverance and inner strength. The author Isabel Allende who was raised in Chile, has authored twenty-four books but devotes the majority of her time to human rights causes. In 2014, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
If you’re looking for a story of two families and their struggle to survive through turbulent times then you must read A Long Petal Of the Sea by Isabel Allende.