[BONUS] Jen Hatmaker Book Club ft. Violeta by Isabel Allende

Jen and Isabel Allende discuss her novel, Violeta, and why Allende makes her bold choices in characters, events, and settings. Allende shares her fascinating personal background – born in Peru, living as a refugee, and eventually immigrating to the U.S. where she began her writing career.

Allende explains how Violeta’s story was inspired by her own mother’s life and letters, which Allende has meticulously preserved over decades. The author discusses how Violeta’s complicated romantic relationships and experiences of political upheaval mirror Allende’s own life.

Particularly compelling moments include:

  • Allende’s description and showing of the extensive archive of her mother’s letters
  • The author’s insights on the challenges women writers face, having to work harder than men to achieve respect
  • Allende’s personal experiences with family tragedy that informed the novel
  • The author’s delight in crafting the “villain” character of Julián, as well as the beloved nanny character based on Allende’s own housekeeper

Overall, you’ll hear a dynamic conversation between Jen and Isabel on life, love, and loss. 

Episode Transcript

Book Summary:

The novel follows the life of Violeta, who is born in 1920 in the aftermath of World War I and the onset of Spanish flu pandemic. The story traces Violeta’s tumultuous life as she navigates historic events, including the Great Depression forcing her family into poverty and a relocation to a remote part of their South American homeland.

Structured through a series of letters Violeta writes to her grandson, the narrative portrays her resilience, passion, and humor against the backdrop of major 20th century historical events and upheavals, including women’s rights struggles. The story arcs through Violeta’s experiences of love, heartbreak, and the ebb and flow of wealth, set against the sweeping historical context of an unnamed South American country.

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