Book review: Island Beneath the Sea

Posted on Saturday, May 8th, 2010


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Isabel Allende - Island beneath the seaIsland Beneath the Sea, written by New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende, tells the story of a mulatta woman, a slave and concubine, determined to take control of her own destiny. Allende, four years after Ines of My Soul, returns with another historical novel ranging from the sugar plantations of Saint-Domingue to the lavish parlors of New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century.

Opening in Saint Domingue a few years before the Haitian revolution would tear it apart, Allende tells the story of Zarité, born a slave as the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. Though her childhood, which is one of brutality and fear, Zarité 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 Zarité 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.


Our rating: ★★★★★


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  • Author: Isabel Allende
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061988243
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061988240


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Tagged as Fiction, Haiti, Historical, Isabel Allende, Review, world literature+ Categorized as By year, 2010, By rating, 4 Stars, By genre, Historical

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