Once you know where to look, ideas for stories can be found almost anywhere. Authors often borrow inspiration from their own life and the lives of those around them. Even something as random as an overheard conversation can spark an idea for a plot.
In the case of brilliant writer Isabel Allende, it is not hard to see where she found the inspiration for In The Midst of Winter, her new, beautifully crafted novel of friendship, endurance and unexpected love.
Recently, Allende has talked openly, going on the record about her relationship with a New York lawyer, admitting it’s a surprising new chapter in her life when she’d expected to remain alone after the end of her 27 year-long marriage in 2015.
Talking to journalist Irina Atanasova, Allende explained that she and the lawyer didn’t meet until after six months of emails, but when they did, they fell instantly for one another. ‘We fell in love. I thought this could never happen to me again, but you see, even at 74 you can find love.’
The Midst of Winter begins with the biggest Brooklyn snowstorm in living history and the blossoming of an unexpected love between two people who thought they were deep in the winter of their lives.
There’s Richard Bowmaster, a lonely university professor in his sixties, his tenant Lucia Maraz, a fellow academic from Chile and a tenant in his house. And Evelyn Ortega, a young, undocumented migrant from Guatemala. Richard runs into the back of Evelyn’s car and leaves her his business card. That small incident takes an unforeseen and more serious turn when Lucia turns up at Richard’s front door.
To avoid spoilers, let’s just say that young Evelyn is full of surprises, as is her car boot. She’s in big trouble and desperately needs their help. An eventful road trip follows, and the trio’s time together leads to conversations, confessions and the unveiling of some stunning secrets. Stories of personal tragedy, joy, violence, loss, passion and love spill out, taking the readers from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala and to turbulent Chile and Brazil in the 1970s.
Evelyn’s account of fleeing Guatemala to be smuggled across the Mexican border to the US is compelling and horrific. As is Lucy’s story of the disappearance of her beloved brother after the brutal military coup that overthrew Chilean President Salvador Allende (Isabel’s Uncle).
Being thrown together on an almost impossible mission in completely unforeseen circumstances sparks a long overdue love between Richard and Lucia: ‘Now he was bursting with sentimental verses he would never find the courage to write. To tell her for example how much he loved her…She had blown in like gossamer by the wind of good fortune and here she was, with a promise glinting in her large eyes.’
In The Midst of Winter is a complete pleasure to read. First and foremost a love story, a gorgeously written romance told with vibrancy and passion, it also has adventure, powerful passages that tear your heart out, and a sense of history and injustice with a sprinkling of magic realism.
There is no-one else quite like Isabel Allende and In The Midst of Winter shows you why.
About The Author
Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of many bestselling and critically acclaimed books including The House of Spirits, Daughter of Fortune, the wonderful Paula and My Invented Country. Translated into more than 35 languages, they have sold more than 65 million copies worldwide. She lives in California.