Island Beneath the Sea

TitleIsland Beneath the Sea

Author:  Isabel Allende

Publisher: Harper, April 2010

Summary: Island Beneath the Sea follows a young woman named Zarité thrown into slavery in 18th century Haiti. Known by most as Tété, she is chosen to become housekeeper for Toulouse Valmorain, an unpredictable plantation entrepreneur and his wife, Eugenia, a woman slowly being dissolved into madness by the harsh living conditions and constant threat of political uprisings. The story follows Tété, who is likeable and sweet, but also conflicted and strong, as she struggles to become a free woman while desperately trying to keep her family intact and protect all those who have helped her.

Staying true to her roots, Allende creates an emotional story of romance, politics, and fantasy using an outstanding cast of characters. At times, the book can be a roller coaster- the defeats are particularly harsh and the accomplishments incredibly satisfying, reminding the reader that life is not always just. At approximately 500 pages, be prepared to devote at least a few weeks to the book. The characters -since their relationships are generally unconfirmed and many appear sporadically- take some time to get to know, but it is well worth the effort.

Who will like this book?  Those who like literature and character development- though not as tough as 100 Years of Solitude, a large number of characters come into play, and the book moves rather slowly at times (which is not a particularly bad thing!). Also, those who like reading about exotic places, history, and politics. Similar books would include Honolulu by Alan Brennert and Portrait in Sepia, also by Allende.

If you like this, try this: Honolulu by Alan Brennert, Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende, Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

Recommended by:  LB, Circulation Assistant

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