Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: Island Beneath the Sea

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

Publication Date: April 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 480pp
ISBN-13: 9780061988257
ISBN: 0061988251

(Received for review from TLC Tours)

Isabel Allende on the WEB: Website, Blog, Facebook

Excerpt from Island Beneath the Sea
Book Trailer: This is an interview with Isabel Allende from The Artist's Toolbox.

Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):

Born a slave on the island of Saint-Dominque, Zarite - known as Tete - 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, Tete finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and 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 teenage slave.

Spanning four decades, Island Beneath the Sea is the moving story of the intertwined lives of Tete and Valmorain and 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 cruelest of circumstances.


Chilean author, Isabel Allende grabs readers "by the neck" and holds on to them 'til the very end of her latest book, Island beneath the Sea. This historical fiction novel, set against the backdrop the slave revolt in Haiti in the early 1800's is a coming of age novel, a love story, and a thriller all rolled into one. Allende's ability to create memorable characters who touch the reader is evident, as we meet Zarite, known as Tete, a slave girl who wants more for herself than a life of bondage. Readers will find themselves entertained and educated through Allende's latest book and left wanting more.

Tete, a mulatto slave girl is the product of an African mother and a white sailor who sells her into slavery. Her life as a slave is filled with terrible experiences, but Tete holds onto the idea that one day she will be free. Tete finds herself in a French colony that will eventually become Haiti, purchased as a ladies maid for the wife of a local landowner. When Tete arrives at Saint Lazare she has no idea the path her life would take. Toulouse Valmorain had big dreams when he took over his father's plantation, but things didn't turn out quite the way he thought they would. He finds the work tedious and demanding. When he finally takes a wife, he finds that marriage isn't any easier and he takes comfort in his wife's teenage maid, Tete. Tete ends up having two children with Valmorain and finds herself in the middle of a slave revolt, that could change her life forever.

Isabel Allende once again brings readers a novel filled with engaging characters and memorable historical moments. This book spans forty years in the life of Tete, a slave girl who finds herself in Haiti during the slave revolt of 1804. Allende does a remarkable job of weaving historical facts into the story of Tete's life, giving this book credibility and authenticity. The reader will see Tete grow and become a woman throughout the book, never giving up on her dream of freedom. Readers will come to admire her tenacity and strength as she endures the hardships of slavery and life on a sugar cane plantation. They will bear with her the pain of an unwanted relationship with her master, and feel the joy and protective spirit as she mothers her children, sacrificing everything for them even her dreams. She is a great character and Allende does a masterful job of creating her and giving her a voice.

The historical aspects of the book are well written and it's easy to see the amount of research that went into crafting a novel of this magnitude. Allende has a gift for finding a time period that accentuates the story she is trying to tell. Using the slave revolt in Haiti gave her the opportunity to explore slavery and how it affects people. Her characters show not only the brutality of slavery, but hopes and dreams of a different life. Allende's descriptions, though not overly graphic, gave the reader a real sense of what Tete and the other slaves when through. I felt this book really brought the issue into stark reality. It didn't paint a glorious picture, but a tortured one, of a strong people who were resilient and able to maintain hope in spite of their adversity.

I thought Allende portrayed the relationship between Tete and Valmorain in a very realistic way. Though Tete was a slave and Valmorain was her master, she still harbored feelings for him in spite of her treatment. As was often the case, Tete was a mistress as well as a servant and had two children with Valmorain. This prompted her to leave with him and go to New Orleans during the revolt. She could have taken her freedom at that point, but she sacrificed it for a while longer because of her children. She almost fosters a love-hate relationship with Valmorain. Being dependent on him, yet loathing him to some extent. I thought the author did a great job of showing how two people can become caught up in a series of events that tie them to each other and creates a bond between them in spite of their feelings towards each other.

I recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, those interesting in stories set during the early days of Haiti and it's history and to those looking for a moving and heart-wenching book. This novel provides all of that and more. At almost 500 pages it is lengthy, but a truly worthwhile read. Allende's ability to create memorable and enduring characters is one of the best aspects of the book and readers will find themselves thinking about these characters long after they have read the last page.

Island Beneath the Sea is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Aristocratic Chile is vividly evoked in Isabel Allende's lyrical novels, in which a family's past and future is linked inextricably with that of it's country's. A writer whose dreamy, imagistic books transport the reader to another time and place Allende is considered by many to be the heir to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's lavish magic realism.


Tea said...

Thank you for the video. I have heard her talk on t.v. I luv to hear Isabel Allende talk. Thank you.

Tea said...

So powerful, thank you so much.

trish said...

It's been a long time since I've read a book by Allende, but you've made me want to run out and pick this one right up! Fantastic review. Thanks for being on this tour!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this wonderful review. Island Beneath the Sea sounds like Isabel Allende at her best! After reading your review, I'm looking forward to reading Tete's story!