Isabel Allende’s novel is set against the backdrop of a country ruled with an iron fist. The country is unnamed, but the society depicted is likely to be Chile in its early years under dictatorial rule. You can see the political violence through the eyes of the protagonists, a journalist and a photographer.
Irene's innocence and optimism are challenged by the discovery of Evangelina's body in a mass grave. Evangelina's death symbolizes the oppressive nature of the military regime. A population accustomed to democratic leadership is controlled by fear and persecution. Thousands of people disappear without a trace. Political opponents are held in detention for months or years. Family members are given no information about their imprisoned relatives. They never get to know the fate of their loved ones. Some are subjected to torture and then killed and buried in hidden graves.
Military death squads routinely erase the lives of innocent civilians, and overcrowded morgues and the rubble of a terrorized country depict the horrors of political violence in the novel.