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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-y 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. Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden.


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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-y 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. Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden.

30 review for Island Beneath the Sea

  1. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    The Real Code Noir My only direct knowledge of Haiti comes from my marginal involvement in the attempted Haitian coup of 1970 against ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier. The failed survivors took to sea in several small ships, ran out of fuel, and asked for humanitarian assistance from the Coast Guard. My ship was diverted from training in Guantanamo Bay and ordered to tow the rebel vessels to Roosevelt Roads, a naval base on Puerto Rico. I, as an expendable junior officer, was assigned to take command of the l The Real Code Noir My only direct knowledge of Haiti comes from my marginal involvement in the attempted Haitian coup of 1970 against ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier. The failed survivors took to sea in several small ships, ran out of fuel, and asked for humanitarian assistance from the Coast Guard. My ship was diverted from training in Guantanamo Bay and ordered to tow the rebel vessels to Roosevelt Roads, a naval base on Puerto Rico. I, as an expendable junior officer, was assigned to take command of the larger of the Haitian ships, few of whose crew spoke English, and all of whom I suspected, irrationally, of being Tonton Macoutes, who would rather kill and eat me than allow themselves to be interned by the U.S. Navy. My first task was to inspect the ship to ensure we had collected all the small arms. Because the generators were out of action, there were no lights; so I had to creep around the the lower deck compartments with a flashlight. Opening the door to the main hold I caught a human shape about 30 feet in front of me, arms outstretched as if crucified, legs dangling limp, with a rope around its neck. Beating a quick retreat back through the watertight door, I took a few deep breaths before re-entering the compartment. Instead of a bloated face and tortured body, what I found was an old-fashioned deep-diving suit, with its brass helmet, hanging stiffly on its assigned hook. Relief was overcome by feelings of stupidity and embarrassment lest any of the Haitians had seen me. But the practical lesson was also clear: voodoo works - especially in the dark, and particularly when you’re out of your depth. So I do have a sense of recognition reading Isabel Allende’s tale of oppression and voodoo revenge. Haitian voodoo fascinates me in its functionality. It is an underground culture that demonstrates how powerful the human drive to create cultural tradition actually is when people are ripped from their familiar societies. And it scares hell out of white people - for approximately the same reason, namely it represents a humanity that can’t be extinguished by power. This is worrisome to those in charge for precisely the reasons given in Allende’s book, which are identical to those generating my fear on the Haitian ship. It’s not just a fear of loss of control, as in the Haitian slave rebellion of the early 19th century for example. It is also the more fundamental dread that one is living in an alternative reality, an unknown darkness, which might exert itself at any moment. In other words, that one is actually captive in an alien spiritual as well as physical universe. Voodoo syncretism, its assimilation of fragments of the various cultures it comes in contact with (much like the English language in this magpie-like tendency, it occurs to me), is its strength. It is sufficiently familiar to white people because it uses some Christian symbols like the cross and the Virgin Mary. But it is simultaneously alien and threatening because it treats these symbols as what they are - enigmatic signs - and connects them with other symbols and rituals, not as dogmatic assertions or fixed creeds but as further ‘floating’ signs. This is not the European way. It may not be the African way either. But it does create a coherent society with its own customs, language and social structure that are impervious to the culture around it. It is a product of intellectual ingenuity, artistic creativity, and spite. Voodoo itself, therefore, is a continuous rebellion - not just against racial oppression but also against any attempt to fix the character of either human beings or human society. It undermines the established, the official, the approved, and the powerful (and thus the Code Noir, the laws of slavery). As such it is quite rightly feared. It is simultaneously there and not there, entirely real and entirely mythical, solid and ephemeral. Or a hanged man and a diving suit.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    This is $1.99 kindle special again today - I still own this book - loved it - packed filled with drama ... I'm reading Isabel Allende's new book right now - "In The Mist of Winter", not released yet -- and it's TERRIFIC... save your pennies for it! Or get your name on the waitlist at the library. Older ... tiny comment: I just bought this book yesterday. It looks fantastic! I LOVE Isabel Allende. I like her fiction and non-fiction books. I'm also so excited....she will be speaking at a darling book This is $1.99 kindle special again today - I still own this book - loved it - packed filled with drama ... I'm reading Isabel Allende's new book right now - "In The Mist of Winter", not released yet -- and it's TERRIFIC... save your pennies for it! Or get your name on the waitlist at the library. Older ... tiny comment: I just bought this book yesterday. It looks fantastic! I LOVE Isabel Allende. I like her fiction and non-fiction books. I'm also so excited....she will be speaking at a darling book store in Mt. View tonight. I hope I get a front row seat! elyse This book is EXCELLENT!!! The best book I have read all year!!!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    Take the rich historical settings of Haiti and New Orleans. Toss in voodoo ceremonies, zombies, bloody slave uprisings, forbidden loves, pirates, spies, fortune-tellers, hurricanes, epidemics, and a pinch of scandal. Place all of this is Isabel Allende's gifted hands, and what's not to love? This book took some time and concentration to get through, but when I got to the end I found myself wanting more, more, more. I wanted to know what happens to Tete and Zacharie and Maurice and their families Take the rich historical settings of Haiti and New Orleans. Toss in voodoo ceremonies, zombies, bloody slave uprisings, forbidden loves, pirates, spies, fortune-tellers, hurricanes, epidemics, and a pinch of scandal. Place all of this is Isabel Allende's gifted hands, and what's not to love? This book took some time and concentration to get through, but when I got to the end I found myself wanting more, more, more. I wanted to know what happens to Tete and Zacharie and Maurice and their families as the years pass, and I wanted to see a certain haughty bitch get her comeuppance. But a good storyteller knows when to stop, and this is the best Allende novel I've read so far. It will be on my Best of 2010 list, no question. A special thank you to Margaret Sayers Peden for making Ms. Allende's novels available to us in English. Good translation work deserves more recognition.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl James

    This book is so good i decided to read it again (2nd Read) I personally saved this book for my last review of 2019. I love the author and I totally loved this book. It took me two years to finish this book. Sometimes you read a book and then sometimes you read a story that is near and dear to your heart and this was the story for me. This story is about so much more than power and slavery. It's about the pain, sorrow, dedication and determination of a young black girl to a strong black woman. This This book is so good i decided to read it again (2nd Read) I personally saved this book for my last review of 2019. I love the author and I totally loved this book. It took me two years to finish this book. Sometimes you read a book and then sometimes you read a story that is near and dear to your heart and this was the story for me. This story is about so much more than power and slavery. It's about the pain, sorrow, dedication and determination of a young black girl to a strong black woman. This book touched my heart and my soul. I didn't want it to end. The author has a way of making her words turn into majic. The characters are so real and the story is so believable. To all of my Tete's out there keep your head up and walk as the Queen that you are❣ To the author, (Isabel Allende) thank you for writing this story. I have read your books in the past and you did not disappoint!! To my Goodreads friends Happy New Year to you. Enjoy your reading in 2020!!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Claire Grasse

    The flyleaf review on this book promised that it was written with all kinds of "native wit and brio." sic. Well, I fear this surfeit of wit and brio was somehow waylaid between press and the bookstand, because I'm halfway through, and now hoping I can find the grim stamina to just hang on and finish this book that somehow manages to feel damp and depressing, even in the cheeriest of chapters. Allende uses language beautifully. She paints vivid word portraits of places and times I've never been t The flyleaf review on this book promised that it was written with all kinds of "native wit and brio." sic. Well, I fear this surfeit of wit and brio was somehow waylaid between press and the bookstand, because I'm halfway through, and now hoping I can find the grim stamina to just hang on and finish this book that somehow manages to feel damp and depressing, even in the cheeriest of chapters. Allende uses language beautifully. She paints vivid word portraits of places and times I've never been to. Unfortunately, in this book, those portraits are all dark and grim, and echoing with suffering. Plus everything smells bad, if the narrative is to be believed. I'm not a fan of fluffy feel-good literature ALL the time, but jeepers, could we have some BALANCE? If you're going to write nearly 500 pages on the Revolution in Haiti that sprang out of the French Revolution, a spark or two of hope and maybe even happiness might not be amiss in keeping the audience's attention. Plodding onward, in the interest of finishing what I started. Whether this ever moves from my "currently reading" shelf to my "read" shelf remains to be seen. Edited to add: I finished it. The last 1/4 of the book was better than anything that came before, and since it redeemed itself I'm bumping it up a star. Still nothing I'd recommend though. It was historically informative, but so dark and... and... CLAMMY feeling that I was left feeling as though I needed to scrape it off my skin. And I'm not a literature professor, so I'm allowed to feel repugnance for books like this. So there.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tynan Power

    Extraordinary book about race, slavery, Haiti and New Orleans, as well as what it means to be family, by blood, by fate and by choice. It begins in 18th century Haiti (prior to when it was called Haiti) and ends in New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase. In the first part of the book, it chronicles the slave revolts that led to the creation of Haiti as the first independent black ("negro") nation. In the second part, it keeps Haiti in the background while following the main characters in New O Extraordinary book about race, slavery, Haiti and New Orleans, as well as what it means to be family, by blood, by fate and by choice. It begins in 18th century Haiti (prior to when it was called Haiti) and ends in New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase. In the first part of the book, it chronicles the slave revolts that led to the creation of Haiti as the first independent black ("negro") nation. In the second part, it keeps Haiti in the background while following the main characters in New Orleans as it changes hands from French to Spanish to French again and finally to being under U.S. rule. This book is one of the most fascinating pieces of historical fiction I've read--and since it's my favorite genre, that's significant. I "read" this book as an Audible.com audio book and found it to be very engrossing, easy to hear and easy to follow. Since I'm hearing impaired, I find many audiobooks are too difficult to listen to, but this one was a pleasure. It was read by S. Epatha Merkerson (the African-American woman who has played Lt. Anita Van Buren on Law and Order).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    Three & a half stars. Isabel Allende is a passionate, confident storyteller. To read her sweeping historical fiction is to surrender to high drama and romance. I first knew Allende as a writer of magical realism with works like Eva Luna and Of Love and Shadows, in which she intertwines contemporary political drama with strokes of the surreal and mystical. But her debut novel, The House of the Spirits, published in 1982 and the epics which followed, such as Daughter of Fortune, Portrait in Sepia, Three & a half stars. Isabel Allende is a passionate, confident storyteller. To read her sweeping historical fiction is to surrender to high drama and romance. I first knew Allende as a writer of magical realism with works like Eva Luna and Of Love and Shadows, in which she intertwines contemporary political drama with strokes of the surreal and mystical. But her debut novel, The House of the Spirits, published in 1982 and the epics which followed, such as Daughter of Fortune, Portrait in Sepia, Zorro reveal a writer rooted deeply in the past and enamored of rich, complex, colorful narratives. In Island Beneath The Sea, Allende wraps her considerable skill around the sugar plantations of Saint Domingue, an island in the Caribbean. She opens the story in 1770 with the arrival of Toulouse Valmorain, a young minor noble who is charged with resurrecting the plantation his dying father has left to rot. Paralleling the third-person narrative of Valmorain's misadventures, the death of Saint-Domingue and the birth of the first black republic, Haiti, is the first-person stream of Zarité, a slave. We witness the horrors of slavery from a position removed, seeing all angles as plantation owners fight to hold onto their wealth and slaves fall by the thousands. We are also invited into the heart of woman who fights for her soul despite the inhumanity that touches every aspect of her life. The action is brutal and graphic; Allende spares no detail in describing the incomprehensible cruelty suffered by slaves. We read scene after scene of torture, from a sea voyage in chains from Africa to the Caribbean - survived by those who escape being fed to sharks or wasting away from starvation or disease - to the living hell of sugarcane fields where the slaves are worked literally to death. It would seem that the author intended to give the greatest weight to the story of Zarité. Even the book's synopsis asserts that this story is about "a mulatta woman determined to take control of her own destiny." But the initial focus of Island Beneath The Sea is the political and sociological conditions of Saint-Domingue which lead to a slave revolution and the fight for an independent black nation. Zarité's voice seems like a whisper, an impression reinforced by the italics used for the chapters of her narrative. Allende excels at creating strong female characters and there are many in this story: the gorgeous concubine Violette, the shrieking harridan Hortense, the formidable healer Tante Rose. But Zarité's story is cast in the shadow of Haiti's violent birth and the wretched immorality of the colonials. Then the story moves from the newly formed island nation to Louisiana and the center of French culture in the New World, New Orleans. It is here that the story shifts from historical epic to Gothic drama. The families transplanted from the Caribbean struggle to find new places in a society where the rules change with its citizens' fortunes. The shift is frustrating - we leave behind themes of freedom and political determination and are dropped instead into several different romantic subplots. Even as I was entertained, I felt intellectually cheated by the discarding of so vital a story. It is impossible not to be swept away by Allende's vivid detail and breathtaking scope of history; in fact, so much scene-setting and character description can steam-roll the reader. The first half is entrancing, the second half is entertaining. Although Allende's story isn't always convincing, her passion is.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Thursday evening, May 6th, I had the good fortune to attend a talk and reading by the most famous living Latin American author. Isabel Allende read from her new novel Island Beneath the Sea at the Atlanta History Center to an auditorium full of fans. She was a delight!! It had been years since someone had read to me and I had quite forgotten what a pleasure that can be. Author Allende reading her new book in her wonderful Latin American accent made for one of the most pleasurable evenings out I h Thursday evening, May 6th, I had the good fortune to attend a talk and reading by the most famous living Latin American author. Isabel Allende read from her new novel Island Beneath the Sea at the Atlanta History Center to an auditorium full of fans. She was a delight!! It had been years since someone had read to me and I had quite forgotten what a pleasure that can be. Author Allende reading her new book in her wonderful Latin American accent made for one of the most pleasurable evenings out I have had in a long time. Island Beneath the Sea is an exciting story and as usual has a strong female character. Notably, Allende advised when asked about her female characters from a member of the audience, that she did not know any women who were not strong. Who can't love an author that thinks that way?! I also want to congratulate the Atlanta History Center for doing a good job of making the reading and signing a pleasurable experience for those attending. I plan to attend more events there in the future. The parking was good, the grounds are beautiful, the auditorium was comfortable, and the open bar was a nice touch. I have never read a book by Isabel Allende, but had fully intended to for some years. Now that I have a copy of her new book, I will bump it up the "to-read" list.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    An ambitious saga of personal lives and aspirations amid the violent transition of Haiti from a French colony founded on slavery into an independent republic at the turn of the 18th century. We are immersed in the story of the slave Zarité on a sugar plantation and how she learns to survive under its young aristocratic master Valmorain, who rapes her at 13 and fathers children by her. She eventually gains his respect and some independent agency as a caretaker of his white son. When the time of t An ambitious saga of personal lives and aspirations amid the violent transition of Haiti from a French colony founded on slavery into an independent republic at the turn of the 18th century. We are immersed in the story of the slave Zarité on a sugar plantation and how she learns to survive under its young aristocratic master Valmorain, who rapes her at 13 and fathers children by her. She eventually gains his respect and some independent agency as a caretaker of his white son. When the time of the slave revolt comes, her love of this son keeps her from joining in, and she makes the sacrifice of helping Valmorin and the child escape the pillaging of the plantation. The plot gets a bit disjointed when they move to the New Orleans area to start a new plantation, and Zarité thrives on the hope of gaining her promised freedom and reconnecting with a son that tragically was given to another family. All the horrors of slavery are covered through details of life on the plantation. The baroque caste system of the island’s society is portrayed through a panoply of characters among its small white ruling class and larger populations mixed race and free blacks. Among these are a French doctor, a priest, a voodoo priestess and herbalist, a mulatto courtesan, and a nightclub manager. Slaves outnumber the free population ten to one, continually imported from Africa to make up for those worked to death. Eventually enough runaways hiding out in the rough country gain enough leadership to fight back. It has been hard for me to digest Haiti’s history from the few details I have been exposed to. This was one of the first revolutions by a European colony and the only successful slave revolt. It followed not too long after the American Revolution and overlapped the French Revolution. As much as abolition of slavery fit in with the call for human equality, the slaughter of whites was too brutal to countenance and the economic threat to colonial imperialism was too much for any European nation to recognize the nascent republic. The plantation owners were royalists, so military support for their cause was compromised, leading them as well as the revolutionaries to seek military support alternatingly from Britain and from Spain (which retained the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola, now the Dominican Repbublic). With the rise of Napoleon, the abolition of slavery and rights of free blacks was initially supported, but that didn’t last long. Military forces placed there were subject to rates of death from diseases like yellow fever perhaps as high as 50%. Eventually, Napoleon’s need to concentrate on his ambitions in Europe led him to give up on Haiti, as well as to sell French continental holdings to the U.S. as the Louisiana Purchase. I admire Allende for trying to bring these momentous events for Haiti to life though her characters. Zarité is an engaging character and moved me with her courage and heart wrenching experiences. But the events of the revolution remained confusing from her individual’s perspective and the play of the lives of the many other characters was a bit too melodramatic to rise much above their serving as representatives in a diorama. Thus, the book was closer to 3.5 stars. Unlike the American Revolution, the birth of the Haitian republic is a painful reminder of such a long period of dashed hopes. The debt of reparations to France prevented Haiti’s economy from ever growing into a healthy one. Tragically, the republic came under a series of black dictators and many decades of interventions by U.S. and European forces and by large corporations. I Last visited Haiti through Kidder’s wonderful account of the public health work by Paul Farmer, “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” Since that time, the Haitian people have been devastated by major hurricanes in 2004 and 2008 and by a massive earthquake in 2010. We must resist the impulse to mentally give up on its beleaguered people, the poorest in the western hemisphere, and try to shut it out of one’s mind. Kidder’s book can help you appreciate how wrong that is and how much hope there is for these wonderful people and their beautiful country. This read from Allende reveals how long ago that hope was launched.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    "Islands Beneath the Sea" refers to where people go when they die. I guess it's some kind of folklore, the origins of which are unclear from the book. I don't have anything really deep and meaningful to say about this book. I thought it was in effect an overly emotional soap opera about cartoonishly evil and inept villain Toulouse Valmorain and the chronically persecuted Zarete (Tete). All of this against the backdrop of the very brutal slavery conditions in Saint-Domingue aka Haiti and the peri "Islands Beneath the Sea" refers to where people go when they die. I guess it's some kind of folklore, the origins of which are unclear from the book. I don't have anything really deep and meaningful to say about this book. I thought it was in effect an overly emotional soap opera about cartoonishly evil and inept villain Toulouse Valmorain and the chronically persecuted Zarete (Tete). All of this against the backdrop of the very brutal slavery conditions in Saint-Domingue aka Haiti and the perils of being a free person in New Orleans during a time of slavery. The descriptions of history and the conditions depicted in the book of Haiti are done very well. It's clear that a lot of effort and research went into the first half of the book. Then I think Allende got tired of the futility and hopelessness of the story for her protagonist heroine Te Te. Allende seems to be at heart a romantic and the setting in Haiti was far too grim. Even with the (in my view) odd love story with fellow slave Gambo, she couldn't lighten the load to add that air of romance. So fast forward to New Orleans. Valmorain finds love with an awful woman (his just desserts) and Tete finds freedom and love with a free negro. Huzzah!! Everyone's happy right?!? Well as I mentioned, it's a soap opera about slavery. Inevitably (view spoiler)[the all-white son of Valmorain (Maurice) can only find true love with his half-sister by rape (Rosette) between Valmorain and Tete. Such a union cannot be allowed to prosper in literature so Rosette succumbs to death in childbirth and Maurice abandons the child to Tete to raise as her own. Valmorain has a debilitating stroke and his wife hates him and his son disowns him. See!?! Happy endings!!!... (hide spoiler)] Obviously there is more to the plot for this pretty long book, but it is also largely episodic and not that crucial to the story line. Actually in less skilled hands this book is a catastrophe, but Allende can write beautifully. The pages are dripping with florid and gorgeous language. Like her mentor Garcia-Marquez, Allende fills the page with every stray thought a character might have and with luscious descriptions of the environment. Characterizations in general however, are not a strong suit in this book. The emotions that I felt were not the characters emotions, they were the author's. And my goodness Allende does like to write about feelings about and surrounding sexy times (view spoiler)[(even during rapes) (hide spoiler)] . Through the horrors of slavery and perils of disillusionment, hopelessness and resentment; not one of the characters managed to elicit strong feelings from me. The bad folks were cartoonishly bad and the good folks were milquetoast. Also too, basically I'm not a fan of slave narratives. In fact I sort of loath them, so there's that too. A 3.5 Star read for me. The strength of the first half uplifted the episodic last half of the book. Having said that, I will definitely be reading more Allende. 3.5 Stars Listened to the audiobook narrated by S Epatha Merkerson. The narration was good and kept my interest.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kellie Lambert

    I thought I would never finish this...like a split personality friend, the first 250 pages were a drag and the last 250 were epic! This is a big feat, my friends, to have finished this book. I'm serious. Somebody throw me a party, because for a 500 page book (which is usually no big deal), this one felt like Moby Dick, minus the whale. It was that slow. I almost gave up on it, but kept returning to it because I had spent $10 on the e-book and it was recommended to me, so there's that. But hey, I I thought I would never finish this...like a split personality friend, the first 250 pages were a drag and the last 250 were epic! This is a big feat, my friends, to have finished this book. I'm serious. Somebody throw me a party, because for a 500 page book (which is usually no big deal), this one felt like Moby Dick, minus the whale. It was that slow. I almost gave up on it, but kept returning to it because I had spent $10 on the e-book and it was recommended to me, so there's that. But hey, I have to say I'm glad I read it. It felt like Gone with the Wind---epic in scale, history, and the characters. I felt a part of something big. It covered a couple generations, too, so by the time I finished I had to think about all that I had 'experienced.' I don't know if I can recommend it though, because of those first 200 pages or so. It follows Zarite, a black slave girl who is bought by a rich white plantation owner as his wife's slave. Zarite experiences first-hand the violence, prejudice, scorn, rape, etc. that comes with being a female slave and forced concubine. She has children ripped from her and fights for years for her freedom (and theirs.) It's gut-wrenching, the characters read as real people, and I became so wrapped up in what was to happen to them that I couldn't put it down (those last 200 some pages, mind you.) So, I don't know if I can recommend this. It is like that long day of yardwork you do for your Dad and you totally hate it but then feel good and sweaty by the end. Or that stupid relationship you have in high school where it was kind of dragged out and stupid and great but you know you learned something by the end. I think it's one of those in which you love it 10x more in retrospect. Like that one party your friends and you recount but know at the time it was kind of boring and the food was gross. The writing was....poorly paced and sometimes so wordy I had to skim entire chapters (I don't care about that neighbor's history, or that general, or how many barrels of cane are sold.) But then all the sudden she'd drop some bomb in the mist of her history lesson that a character died, so suddenly in fact that I almost missed it when skimming over the history of slave voodoo. So, I wish I could be her editor and red line this book..it would improve it immensely. (3 out of 5 stars)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Viv JM

    3.5 stars, rounded up Island Beneath the Sea is an epic historical saga, following the lives of slave Tété and her master Valmorain. The story begins on the island of Saint Domingue (modern day Haiti) and follows the pair through a slave uprising and onwards to exile in New Orleans. Allende’s storytelling is wonderful and she really transports the reader to the geographical and historical setting. I enjoyed the first part of the book, set in Haiti, more than the second part set in New Orleans, wh 3.5 stars, rounded up Island Beneath the Sea is an epic historical saga, following the lives of slave Tété and her master Valmorain. The story begins on the island of Saint Domingue (modern day Haiti) and follows the pair through a slave uprising and onwards to exile in New Orleans. Allende’s storytelling is wonderful and she really transports the reader to the geographical and historical setting. I enjoyed the first part of the book, set in Haiti, more than the second part set in New Orleans, which was a little slow going at times. The story is mostly told by a third person narrator but there are occasional sections (printed in italics) told in the first person from Tété’s point of view. I wasn’t entirely sure that they added anything to the story, so I was a little baffled by their inclusion. Overall, I found this an engaging read and I thought that Allende’s female characters in particular were wonderfully drawn. This is the first Allende book I have read but I am sure it won’t be the last.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joy D

    Historical fiction covering the years 1770-1810 set first in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) then in New Orleans, Island Beneath the Sea is an ambitious sweeping epic of the slave rebellion that resulted in Haitian independence, and the emigration of displaced people to multi-cultural New Orleans at the time of the Louisiana Purchase. Allende examines the horrors of slavery, the blending of different cultures in the wake of the mass emigration, and the strong bonds that form betw Historical fiction covering the years 1770-1810 set first in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) then in New Orleans, Island Beneath the Sea is an ambitious sweeping epic of the slave rebellion that resulted in Haitian independence, and the emigration of displaced people to multi-cultural New Orleans at the time of the Louisiana Purchase. Allende examines the horrors of slavery, the blending of different cultures in the wake of the mass emigration, and the strong bonds that form between people despite the severe social and racial barriers of the time. The storyline is centered around the mixed-race slave Tété and her maître, plantation owner Valmorain, their children, spouses, friends, acquaintances, and lovers. The burning desire for freedom permeates the story. I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I appreciated learning more about this fascinating period of Haiti’s history. On the other hand, I sometimes found it a bit of a chore to pick up: the pacing seemed uneven, and the ending felt rushed. Allende includes lots of exposition about historical events taking place in other parts of the world, which at times tended to bog down the story. As may be expected from a novel about slavery, the subject matter was grim. Content warnings include racism, sex in many forms (rape, plaçage, infidelity, prostitution, incest) and extreme violence (public executions, murder, infidelity, abuse, brutality, beatings). I had previously read Allende’s Daughter of Fortune and loved it (link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), so I thought I’d try another of her works. While I liked Island Beneath the Sea, it paled in comparison to the level of excellence in Daughter of Fortune. Perhaps my expectations were set too high. Even though I didn’t love this one, I still plan to read more of her work. Recommended to those interested in the history of Haiti and readers that enjoy historical stories of forbidden love, betrayal, and heartbreak. I found it an ambitious undertaking only partially realized. 3.5 stars

  14. 5 out of 5

    Missy J

    This book is captivating. For me, it was truly plunging into a pool and arriving in 18th century Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) in just one page! Can you believe it? That's how good the writing was! This is the first book I read by Isabel Allende. In the beginning, I was intimidated. However, this book is very easy to follow. What I loved most was the first part of the book, because it is set in Saint-Domingue during the years 1770-95. And let me tell you, Allende did her research well on the Haitian This book is captivating. For me, it was truly plunging into a pool and arriving in 18th century Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) in just one page! Can you believe it? That's how good the writing was! This is the first book I read by Isabel Allende. In the beginning, I was intimidated. However, this book is very easy to follow. What I loved most was the first part of the book, because it is set in Saint-Domingue during the years 1770-95. And let me tell you, Allende did her research well on the Haitian Revolution. She entwined historical facts so skillfully into the story of her characters, that everything felt smooth and genuine. Besides what happened in Saint-Domingue, we are constantly updated on the historical events in France, e.g. French Revolution, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI being beheaded, Robespierre and Napoleon. We are introduced to a wide variety of colorful personalities. It feels lively and you feel like you're a part of it. You want to know what happens in their lives, what goes on in their hearts. Although, I must admit, that I was never able to like the protagonist Tete aka Zarite. I didn't understand her, and it angered me. I'm also not fond of Violette. Another thing which bothered me, was the very descriptive love and rape scenes. I know what happened, their positions, where their heads, legs and arms were sticking out. But I feel that I never knew what was really happening in Tete's head when her master "mounted" her. She admits with shame that sometimes she envisions her lover to be there instead of her slave-owner and that she is repulsed by his odor. On the other side, I felt the descriptions of the slave owners views and thoughts were very detailed. One can really see how ignorant and inhuman the slave owners were. A sentence which stuck out went something along the lines of: "it had never occurred to Valmorain (the slave owner) to ask Tete how she felt on those nights, just as it had never occurred to him to ask a horse how he felt when he was riding it." Overall, I thought the first part of the book was stronger than the second part (which is set in New Orleans (Louisiana) in the years 1795-1810), primarily because I'm interested in Haiti. But also because some characters, which felt promising (in a bad way, I'm talking about the villains here) ended up falling completely short. They suddenly died or disappeared in the book. And I constantly thought that they would re-emerge later and create some grand turning point. So that was disappointing. But all in all, I recommend this book to everyone. Especially the ones interested in world literature and Haiti in particular.

  15. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    I am absolutely in love with Isabel Allende's writing. When I read "The House of Spirits" I was captivated with how she is able to captivate her readers. She continues her magical writing with "Island Beneath The Sea". In Island Beneath The Sea we are taken to 1770 on the island of Saint Domingue (Haiti) where we meet Zarite, who is a slave on the island. We also meet French, Toulouse Valmorain who arrives on the island to run his father's plantation. Of course, Toulouse Valmorain, new to the I am absolutely in love with Isabel Allende's writing. When I read "The House of Spirits" I was captivated with how she is able to captivate her readers. She continues her magical writing with "Island Beneath The Sea". In Island Beneath The Sea we are taken to 1770 on the island of Saint Domingue (Haiti) where we meet Zarite, who is a slave on the island. We also meet French, Toulouse Valmorain who arrives on the island to run his father's plantation. Of course, Toulouse Valmorain, new to the island isn't prepared for all the troubles that comes with being on an island, especially during the time when Haiti is changing. Both Valmorain and Zarite's worlds meets and from there we are taken up into a sweeping saga that continues for over a century. Honestly, Isabel Allende can do no wrong. I was reading this book hoping it wouldn't end, but wanting to know what the end will be like....that's how good it was. If you are looking for an amazing read set in the Caribbean during the 1770, this is it. You will not only read about great characters but get a history lesson on how Saint Domingue transformed to Haiti. What I also loved was getting a look into life in the Caribbean during that time. An amazing read that I highly recommend!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tom LA

    First of all, I have to say I listened to the audiobook in Italian, read by an Italian actress who unfortunately did a terrible job. She read the whole thing with a tone of amused delight, which is the farthest she could possibly go from the horrific ugliness described in this book. So, please bear with me. It's not that I didn't like the story. It's the combination writer / reader that I really, really hated. As for the book itself, I am fascinated by the history of Haiti, but Allende's charact First of all, I have to say I listened to the audiobook in Italian, read by an Italian actress who unfortunately did a terrible job. She read the whole thing with a tone of amused delight, which is the farthest she could possibly go from the horrific ugliness described in this book. So, please bear with me. It's not that I didn't like the story. It's the combination writer / reader that I really, really hated. As for the book itself, I am fascinated by the history of Haiti, but Allende's characters meant less than nothing to me. Look at the book cover - you see how impersonal, flat and bi-dimensional that drawing of a girl's face looks? That's exactly how Allende's characters come across in the book: they feel fake, as if they were talking stereotypes, marionettes, who never once become truly alive. I could never empathize with anyone. The only true feeling that I could sense throughout the novel was boredom. And perhaps that of ... being a victim of cruelty...? In other words: ok, the bare bones of this story are extremely unpleasant to get through. That’s fine, but at least give me some damn adventure or thrills. Nothing at all, only a bit at the end, too late to save the book. Another writer, like for example Ken Follett, while sparing nothing of the violence and ugliness, would have written the story in a totally different way, providing that true conflict, dynamism and excitement that this book is totally lacking. So when i think of Allende I now have this image of an old lady sitting in her neatly organized living room and droning on about this boring story, told with bitterness and more than a hint of sadistic pleasure, while seeping her tea. Her style is called "magic realism" because in the middle of an ornate, poetic and elegant description she will use the word "shit" instead of feces. How magic! She is of course speaking in Spanish, and she has a crazy Italian translator next to her translating every sentence for me with a spirited smile on her face, as if this text was the highest form of poetry she has ever heard. Right. Not good.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This book contains two major themes. First, it is a historical novel describing the Haitian slave rebellion (1791–1804) and New Orleans' Creole society and culture of the same era. Second, the book provides a clever fictional plot that shows the ironic difficulties that can arise in a strictly racially segregated slave holding society where there's an in between mulatto class who are blood relatives to both black and whites, and everybody pretends the relationships don't exist. I enjoyed the stor This book contains two major themes. First, it is a historical novel describing the Haitian slave rebellion (1791–1804) and New Orleans' Creole society and culture of the same era. Second, the book provides a clever fictional plot that shows the ironic difficulties that can arise in a strictly racially segregated slave holding society where there's an in between mulatto class who are blood relatives to both black and whites, and everybody pretends the relationships don't exist. I enjoyed the story plot with women at the forefront, the novel's respectful portrayal of voodoo practices using native herbs and medicines, depiction of Haitian plantation life during the time of slavery, and finally Haiti's slave rebellion. The second half of the book focuses on life in Louisiana during the time of transition from Spanish to French, and then French to American rule. I am not a fan of magical realism, and Allende's writing has a reputation of being in that genre. In the case of this book, however, it only shows up in the context of Haitian Voodoo practices which I found to be fitting. It helped communicate the experience of living within that sort of culture/belief system. My star rating for this book suffers from the fact that I recently read Hilary Mantel's Bring Up The Bodies which knocked my socks off. Allende's writing is good but ordinary in comparision to Mantel. Here's a short review of this book from the PageADay Book Lover's Calendar for March 30, 2013: Set on the 18th-century Haitian island of Saint-Dominique, this novel tells the intertwined stories of Tete, the enslaved daughter of an African mother and a white sailor, and Toulouse, a newly arrived Frenchman entrusted with running his father’s plantation. The unflinching narrative doesn’t attempt to simplify the complexities of the time period or the conflicting needs of the characters, and the resulting drama is rich and compelling. ISLAND BENEATH THE SEA , by Isabel Allende (Harper Perennial, 2010)

  18. 4 out of 5

    KOMET

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. When I read a novel, I hope that I will be presented with a compelling story peopled by characters with whom I can relate, be they kind, virtuous, noble, loving, selfish, hateful, or vindictive. In that respect, "Island Beneath the Sea" won me over completely. The story is centered around 3 families and spans the years 1770 to 1810. Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island of Saint Domingue in 1770, as a man aged 20, to assume ownership and responsibility for a plantation his family has establish When I read a novel, I hope that I will be presented with a compelling story peopled by characters with whom I can relate, be they kind, virtuous, noble, loving, selfish, hateful, or vindictive. In that respect, "Island Beneath the Sea" won me over completely. The story is centered around 3 families and spans the years 1770 to 1810. Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island of Saint Domingue in 1770, as a man aged 20, to assume ownership and responsibility for a plantation his family has established there (Saint-Lazare). He is a young man with egalitarian ideas, as well as an atheist. He mixes in as best he can with the stratified society that defines Saint Domingue, France's wealthiest colony, largely based on sugar and slave labor. "Toulouse Valmorain spent the first years lifting Saint-Lazare from devastation and was unable to travel outside the colony even once. He lost contact with his mother and sisters, except for sporadic, rather formal letters that reported only the banalities of everyday life and health. After his failure with two French managers, he hired a mulatto as head overseer of the plantation, a man named Prosper Cambray, and then found more time to read, to hunt, and travel to Le Cap. There he had met Violette Boisier, the most sought after cocotte of the city, a free young woman with the reputation of being clean and healthy, African by heritage, and white in appearance..." Valmorain and Violette had a passionate relationship til he, on a visit to Cuba to visit his business associate, a Spaniard named Sancho Garcia del Solar, introduces him to his younger sister Eugenia, freshly arrived from a nunnery in Madrid. Valmorain and Eugenia marry and return to Saint Domingue. But Saint Domingue does not quite agree with delicate and high-strung Eugenia, who begins to display the dementia that would determine her fate. To help with running the house, Valmorain, with Violette's help, makes inquiries for a slave girl to comfort and assist his wife with the everyday running of the house. Thus he purchases, in the early 1780s, a scrawny, spirited 11-year old girl named Tete (aka Zarite). Tete --- the daughter of a African woman she never knew and a white sailor who impregnated her on the slave ship that transported her to Saint Domingue --- "survives a childhood of brutality and fear, finding solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in her exhilarating initiation into the mysteries of voodoo." By this time, while Violette and Valmorain are no longer lovers (she has married a courageous and principled French army officer named Relais who is utterly devoted to her), they maintain a tenuous, friendly contact. In the meantime, Saint Domingue becomes engulfed in revolution and civil war in the wake of the French Revolution. The lives of Valmorain and his family, Violette and Relais, and Tete are turned upside down. Eventually, most of the main characters, in order to survive, have little choice but to leave Saint Domingue as best they can. After a sojourn in Cuba, Valmorain (now widowed) and his family --- with Sancho's help --- emigrate to New Orleans in the Louisiana Territory circa 1795, where he works painstakingly to re-establish his wealth and position in society. Tete, by now a young, attractive, and desirable woman, shows herself to be strong, resilient and resourceful, despite the limitations and indignities slavery has placed upon her life. By way of contrast, Valmorain becomes a rather debased person as the novel progresses, though not altogether heartless. "Island Beneath the Sea" stands out as a moral tale on slavery, racism, love, and the vagaries of the human heart. From me, it comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    Audiobook performed by S. Epatha Merkerson. In a bit of a departure from her usual emphasis on Hispano-American history, Allende gives us a story of an 18th-century slave in French-occupied Saint-Domingue (later to become Haiti). We follow Zarité from her childhood through age forty, from Guinea to Saint-Domingue to Cuba and on to New Orleans. Allende populates the novel with a wide variety of characters: Zarité’s French master and plantation owner Toulouse Valmorain; the free quadroon Violette B Audiobook performed by S. Epatha Merkerson. In a bit of a departure from her usual emphasis on Hispano-American history, Allende gives us a story of an 18th-century slave in French-occupied Saint-Domingue (later to become Haiti). We follow Zarité from her childhood through age forty, from Guinea to Saint-Domingue to Cuba and on to New Orleans. Allende populates the novel with a wide variety of characters: Zarité’s French master and plantation owner Toulouse Valmorain; the free quadroon Violette Boisier who entertains a wide variety of gentlemen callers, chiefly Valmorain and the French military officer Etienne Relais; Valmorain’s Cuban wife Eugenia Garcia de Solars who is mother to his heir, Maurice; the local doctor Parmentier who is married to a mulatta woman Adele but keeps a separate house from that of his family; and a host of other characters too numerous to mention specifically. Allende is more than up to the task of relating the historical events that frame this family drama. The time frame of the novel is 1770 to 1810, and we witness the slave rebellion that results in the French abandoning Saint-Domingue to the rebel leaders who will ultimately name it Haiti. As the French leave their plantations and the island for safe haven they migrate to the French colony in New Orleans. But just as they feel settled, Napoleon sells a large tract of land to the United States in what we know as the Louisiana Purchase. Against this backdrop of national and international upheaval, we have the family drama of Valmorain, his slave, Zarité, and their children. I loved Zarité. She’s intelligent, resourceful, courageous, adaptable and wily. A keen observer and a good judge of character, she makes alliances and bides her time, acting when it is most advantageous to her and her family. And she needs every bit of these skills to navigate the dangerous relationships with Valmorain's two wives: the mentally unstable Eugenia, and the cruel Hortense. Violette is also a richly drawn character – willful, intelligent, confident, loyal and loving. She has made the best of her situation and with the aid of her loyal servant Loula she will ensure the success of her family and those she holds dear. None of the men in her life are a match for her. S. Epatha Merkerson does a fantastic job of voicing the audiobook. She gives each character a sufficiently unique voice that it is easy to follow the dialogue. But I particularly love the way in which she brings Zarité and Violette to life. These are two strong women, and Merkerson excels in interpreting their characters.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    It's pretty unusual for me to give up on a book, but I'm setting this one aside. I don't exactly have a choice, since it's a library book that can't be renewed because other people are waiting for it. The three weeks I've had the book would have been more than enough time to finish it, though, if it had only captured my imagination. The characters are two dimensional at best, and Allende spends so much time on exposition that 80 pages into the book, almost nothing has happened. There have, howev It's pretty unusual for me to give up on a book, but I'm setting this one aside. I don't exactly have a choice, since it's a library book that can't be renewed because other people are waiting for it. The three weeks I've had the book would have been more than enough time to finish it, though, if it had only captured my imagination. The characters are two dimensional at best, and Allende spends so much time on exposition that 80 pages into the book, almost nothing has happened. There have, however, been lots of descriptions of clothes and furniture. It's too bad, because the voice of the protagonist - a female slave in eighteenth century Haiti named Zarite - is intriguing on the rare occasions that Allende lets her speak. Unfortunately Zarite's chapters are separated by lots of dull filler in the voice of the omniscient narrator.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sakinah

    . This book took me by surprise. It talked about slavery mainly in the 18th century, and how Haiti became the first independent republic for black people after the rebellion of slaves. What I liked most is Zeraté's voice. She makes you live the heartbreaking torture that the slaves endured and the unspeakable condition they were facing in Sugar cane plantation business in addition to her heart wrenching story and how she gained her freedom. . Overall, the book was really good and enjoyable The end . This book took me by surprise. It talked about slavery mainly in the 18th century, and how Haiti became the first independent republic for black people after the rebellion of slaves. What I liked most is Zeraté's voice. She makes you live the heartbreaking torture that the slaves endured and the unspeakable condition they were facing in Sugar cane plantation business in addition to her heart wrenching story and how she gained her freedom. . Overall, the book was really good and enjoyable The ending was not what I hoped for and wanted to know more about Some characters. . . يتحدث الكتاب عن العبودية في القرن الثامن عشر بشكل رئيسي وكيف أصبحت هايتي جمهورية مستقلة بعد ثورة العبيد الدامية والتي استمرت لسنوات. أكثر ما أحببته في الرواية هو صوت زيراتيه حيث تحدثت عن معاناتها خلال العبودية، الاغتصابات المتكرره وكيف تم فصل أطفالها عنها بالقوة. اضافة لذلك تنفل إلينا زيراتيه انواع العذاب اللذي تلقوه العبيد والمعامله اللا إنسانية التي تعرضوا لها بشكل عام و في مزارع قصب السكر بالذات. . . باختصار هي قصة عذاب، أمل، و نضال. الرواية رائعة ومؤثرة وتستحق القراءة ، شتّان مابينها وبين كتاب لعبة نازع الأحشاء. التقييم 4.5/5 لاحتوائه على مقاطع خادشة للحياء وللنهاية .. تمنيت نهاية أكثر إشراقا.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Judith E

    An insightful story about Haiti, New Orleans, slavery and surviving hardship. A stark reminder that slavery was an accepted business practice causing inexplicable behaviors. Well written (as always by Allende), exposing slave life, maternal love, and hope, through the main character, TeTe. A very good book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    This novel follows the lives of two characters; Toulouse Valmorian, a French aristocrat who moves to Haiti in the late 1700s to run a plantation and Tete, a young slave he purchases to care for his new bride. Allende paints a compelling view of slavery in Haiti and shows how it corrupts the souls of the slaveowners and contrasts that with the dignity that many slaves retain despite the brutality inflicted upon them. Allende also focuses on the children who are born from the rape of slaves by thei This novel follows the lives of two characters; Toulouse Valmorian, a French aristocrat who moves to Haiti in the late 1700s to run a plantation and Tete, a young slave he purchases to care for his new bride. Allende paints a compelling view of slavery in Haiti and shows how it corrupts the souls of the slaveowners and contrasts that with the dignity that many slaves retain despite the brutality inflicted upon them. Allende also focuses on the children who are born from the rape of slaves by their owners and how it intertwines slave and master, especially during the slave revolt where Valmorian becomes dependent on Tete and Tete balances her desire to join the revolt with concerns about what will happen to her children. After the slave revolt the novel shifts to New Orleans where the characters move after the slave revolt in Haiti. Allende contrasts slavery in New Orleans to Haiti and weaves the different cultures into the lives of the characters, including the eventual freedom gained by Tete. This book is best when it details specific events in the character's lives, she creates suspense and many multi dimensional characters. The book lost me at times when it spanned many years in a few pages I also did not like the storyline towards the end involving Valmorian's son with his first wife and his daughter with Tete, I found it jarring and distracting from the ending's eventual promise of hope even among the despair and brutality of slavery and the horrible race relations that followed

  24. 5 out of 5

    Adira

    This book gave an in-depth look at what it meant to fight for your right to be a person and a woman during Haitian & American Slavery. If you love an epic drama or a book about characters with loose morals, look no further! You can watch my full review here: #WOCBC| Island Beneath the Sea This book gave an in-depth look at what it meant to fight for your right to be a person and a woman during Haitian & American Slavery. If you love an epic drama or a book about characters with loose morals, look no further! You can watch my full review here: #WOCBC| Island Beneath the Sea

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cynda

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 4 Stars. Before reading this book, I knew that slavery in (now) Haiti was particularly difficult, lethal in a short time, that the work and the tools and the vermin in the sugar cane were deadly, not just the overseers and managers and owners. I learned about life in (now) Haiti, the free blacks the mixed races, the women of pleasure, such as Violette. Before I reading this book, I just thought of slaves, owners/managers, and sugar. I have learned much about the society. Allende conveys a large 4 Stars. Before reading this book, I knew that slavery in (now) Haiti was particularly difficult, lethal in a short time, that the work and the tools and the vermin in the sugar cane were deadly, not just the overseers and managers and owners. I learned about life in (now) Haiti, the free blacks the mixed races, the women of pleasure, such as Violette. Before I reading this book, I just thought of slaves, owners/managers, and sugar. I have learned much about the society. Allende conveys a large amount of social information, including the political changes and inconsistencies. I am familiar with bandits and, but never thought of them being in Haiti. Of course they would be. How else could bands of runaway slaves have survived? So this novel opens my eyes and makes connections. I am unsure of what to make of the halving of the novel in present-day Haiti and New Orleans. I am unsure of what to make of all the different threads of the story. Interesting: Social implications of loving or bedding a slave woman or a woman of color. Interesting: the significance of all the social castes of Haiti and not so much of New Orleans. Or it could seem to be so for me because I have spent a little time in new Orleans and environs and with its people. I find the novel interesting, I read 209 hundred pages of this book in one day. I am just not sure of what to make of it, yet intriguing. And this historical novel does expand and inform. So I have upgraded my rating to 4 Stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Linda Abhors the New GR Design

    This is one of those books that make me wish for a "0" rating, so that I can count it on my list of books read, but tell ya how I really feel about it. My updates pretty much say it all-there are some things that are shockingly out of place here (did you know monkeys and wolves were indigenous to Haiti? I sure as hell didn't.), and what is (mostly) historically accurate is very obviously researched, cut and pasted practically. Know what? Daremblum says it so much more beautifully than I, so here' This is one of those books that make me wish for a "0" rating, so that I can count it on my list of books read, but tell ya how I really feel about it. My updates pretty much say it all-there are some things that are shockingly out of place here (did you know monkeys and wolves were indigenous to Haiti? I sure as hell didn't.), and what is (mostly) historically accurate is very obviously researched, cut and pasted practically. Know what? Daremblum says it so much more beautifully than I, so here's a link to "Not Magical, Not Realism" in the New Republic review. https://newrepublic.com/article/74594...

  27. 4 out of 5

    September Williams

    This is one of the most exquisite handling of slavery, colonialism, sexism and racism -- with a surprising protagonist.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    Duh! For a great portion of this book, I kept trying to figure out why the characters seemed so very, very familiar... almost as if I'd read the book before, years ago. But it was only published two years ago, and my memory isn't quite that bad! I even looked on the internet to try to find out if any excerpts had been previously published, or any short stories featuring the same characters... no. Just as I sat down to write this review, I remembered: I went to see Allende at a live appearance, I Duh! For a great portion of this book, I kept trying to figure out why the characters seemed so very, very familiar... almost as if I'd read the book before, years ago. But it was only published two years ago, and my memory isn't quite that bad! I even looked on the internet to try to find out if any excerpts had been previously published, or any short stories featuring the same characters... no. Just as I sat down to write this review, I remembered: I went to see Allende at a live appearance, I believe shortly before this book was published, and she read a chapter from it! So my memory may be bad, but... So. That settled. I really enjoyed this book. Yes, it can tend toward melodrama, but the events are suited to high drama. Allende has a real talent for creating rich settings and vivid characters. I feel that in this book, a complex time period and difficult social milieu is dealt with well, showing horrific situations from a multiplicity of perspectives, without shying away from the difficult aspects of showing slavery from both slaves' and masters' perspectives. Zarite is a strong and memorable character - well, memorable enough that I felt like I knew her from hearing one chapter, even though I couldn't remember why! I have to admit, after 'City of the Beasts,' I was about ready to give up on Allende... but she's still got it. I guess she just has an inexplicably poor opinion of the intelligence of younger people. ('City of the Beasts' was supposedly YA.) I know, I shouldn't even be talking about it in an unrelated review. But, boy did it suck!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    I've loved Isabel Allende since college. According to the New York Times, they had to create a whole new genre of fiction for her, "magical feminism," because magical realism was all male. This book, however, does not have that magical quality that her earlier writing has. It reads more like a newspaper account of the life of a slave as she moves from pre-revolutionary Haiti through the revolution and on to New Orleans with her master after he loses his plantation on Haiti. It's important stuff t I've loved Isabel Allende since college. According to the New York Times, they had to create a whole new genre of fiction for her, "magical feminism," because magical realism was all male. This book, however, does not have that magical quality that her earlier writing has. It reads more like a newspaper account of the life of a slave as she moves from pre-revolutionary Haiti through the revolution and on to New Orleans with her master after he loses his plantation on Haiti. It's important stuff to read about, but it's not the magical writing that she usually does. It almost seems as if Allende, like the slave owners, cannot allow Zarite, the main character, to speak in her own voice. Zarite's account of events appears occassionally, interspersed between chapters where the omniscient narrator tells us what's happening. I would have preferred to hear more of Zarite's voice. It is nonetheless, a good book - a great reminder of the horrors of slavery and its role in building our country.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    What a beautiful story. It had the bad and the ugly, but was well tempered with hopes and dreams. There is a fair amount of violence in this book as it details the hardships of slave life. This highlighted the strengths in the characters without feeling like it was just trying to shock the reader. All of the characters were well drawn and they evolved during their journey. I enjoyed the character development the most. As beautiful a story this was, I had a hard time with all the historical inser What a beautiful story. It had the bad and the ugly, but was well tempered with hopes and dreams. There is a fair amount of violence in this book as it details the hardships of slave life. This highlighted the strengths in the characters without feeling like it was just trying to shock the reader. All of the characters were well drawn and they evolved during their journey. I enjoyed the character development the most. As beautiful a story this was, I had a hard time with all the historical inserts and there were many. It was heavy handed in info-dumping. It was like reading a social studies book (and I never cared for that in school). So 3 stars.

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