Saturday, July 17, 2010

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

Island Beneath the Sea is Isabel Allende's eight novel. It's historical fiction set in the 1700's and 1800's in both Santo Domingo/Haiti and New Orleans during the slave uprisings, the French Revolution and the Louisiana Purchase. Zarite, also known as Tete, is the heroine of the novel. She is a slave that was brutally raped by her master, Toulouse Valmorain, at the age of 11. Somehow, Tete manages to survive this and subsquent harsh injustices through her indomitable spirit and her religious beliefs - a mix of voodoo beliefs and Christianity. 

I loved the historical backdrop of this novel.  The details about the sugar plantations in Haiti and the fights that occur between slaves and freepeople/planters as well as the tension between mulattos and blacks is just delightful. Her cast of characters was also particularly memorable - it wasn't just about Tete, Toulouse and their children. It was about a revolutionary former slave that Tete falls in love with (and who fights with Toussaint L'Ouverture), the mulatto courtesan who marries the white military man and Toulouse's second, controlling Creole wife, as well as his brother in law.  They were fun, memorable and interesting. 

To me, what perhaps made this book the most memorable, was how Allende describes these important historical events and their impact on the lives of the women in her novel. I also really like how Allende describes and tells the story of how women were important to the historical events in this novel. 

This is a magical novel that you should read right away.  


  1. Of historical interest -- You can see a clip of Toussaint's last moments in prison from the award-winning new short film "The Last Days of Toussaint L'Ouverture" at This film is the basis for a new feature (not with Danny Glover) that is in development.


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