Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review: Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

Title: Island Beneath the Sea
Author: Isabel Allende
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: April 27, 2010
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarité -- known as Tété -- is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. Though her childhood is one of brutality and fear, Tété finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves.
When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, it’s with powdered wigs in his baggage and dreams of financial success in his mind. But running his father’s plantation, Saint-Lazare, is neither glamorous nor easy. It will be eight years before he brings home a bride -- but marriage, too, proves more difficult than he imagined. And Valmorain remains dependent on the services of his teenaged slave.
Spanning four decades, Island Beneath the Sea is the moving story of the intertwined lives of Tété and Valmorain, and of one woman’s determination to find love amid loss, to offer humanity though her own has been battered, and to forge her own identity in the cruellest of circumstances."
My Two Cents:
"Island Beneath the Sea" is the story of Zarite (called Tete), a slave on the island that becomes Haiti. It covers over four decades in her life as she witnesses massive shifts in history on both Haiti and in New Orleans. All the while her life is tangled up with Valmorain, a rich man whose life will turn out in ways he can't imagine in the beginning.

Isabel Allende is definitely one of my favorite writers. If she writes a book, I will read it. I was so pleased to see her write about the revolution in Haiti, as it is a subject that I only know the very, very basic facts about. I really liked how she brought the events to life through a character like Tete. Tete is a great character. We get to see her from many angles due to Allende's brilliant storytelling structure.

Much of the story is tied up in the story between Valmorain and Tete. Valmorain is the master and has control over Tete. He fathers children with her but seems unable to form a true connection to her or the children. A lot of this seems to come from his position where he can basically do anything he wants since Tete belongs to him as his slave. Seeing how both of them navigate this strange world between a true bond and a bond by ownership that they inhabit was fascinating.

Allende's storytelling is always wonderful to me. I like how she includes magical realism in many of her books. It is slightly present in the way that she describes some of the rituals that Tete does and some of the things she believes in (voodoo, etc.). The way she changes point of view throughout the book was really interesting and attention grabbing. The book does drag in a few places and could have been streamlined but it is still a good story.


  1. I have read some Allende and the title really made me curious. Sounds like a good one.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. My book club read it recently and it was a DNF for me. I just couldn't get into the story. I have a review, of sorts, on my blog here. It is really more an explanation of why I didn't finish the book.


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