Isabel Allende’s Hosannas to the Quakers



I am in the middle of reading Isabel Allende’s new book “A Long Petal of the Sea”, about refugees from the Spanish Civil War brought to Chile through the efforts of the poet Pablo Neruda.

I came upon a passage about Quakers that I decided I just had to quote to my husband Ed, a Quaker to the Quaker manor born, when he comes home from work.  34 pages later there was another passage about Quakers.  I read them both out loud to Ed and now quote them here:


on page 70

Elizabeth took her to the home of an English Quaker couple she had worked with when they were on the Madrid front, offering food, clothing, and protection to child victims of the conflict.

“You can stay with them as long as necessary, Roser, at least until you give birth.  After that, we’ll see.  They’re really good people.  Quakers are always to be found where they’re most needed.  They’re saints; the only saints I respect.” 


and on page 114

This was the day of the departure, and the poet still needed a lot of money to pay for this immense transfer of migrants.  The Chilean government refused to contribute, arguing that it would be impossible to justify the expense to a hostile, divided public at home.  To everybody’s surprise, a small group of very formally dressed people suddenly appeared on the quay, volunteering to pay half of every passage.  When Roser saw the group in the distance, she handed Victor the baby and ran to greet them.  Among them were the Quakers who had taken her in.  They had come in the name of their community to fulfill the duty they had set for themselves ever since their origins in the seventeenth century: to serve mankind and promote peace.  Roser repeated to them what she had heard from Elizabeth, “You always appear when you’re most needed.”


I’m still reading the book, but suspect that now that the boat has left Europe for Chile, there will be no more passages about Quakers to quote.  But if there are, I will share those too.

Out of love and admiration for my Quaker husband and relatives.



Isabel Allende

About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 40 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
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