Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Island Beneath the Sea, Isabel Allende

In my forty years I, Zarite Sedella, have had better luck than other slaves. I am going to have a long life and my old age will be a time of contentment because my star -mi z'etoile- also shines when the night is cloudy.

Island Beneath the Sea is set in the late 18th century on the island of Saint-Dominigue. The book focuses on a plantation owner, Toulouse Valmorain, and his slave Zarite, with whom he develops an interesting relationship. This book started rather slow, but in true Allende fashion, it quickly became very interesting. Toulouse Valmorain is very dissatisfied; he got dragged out to the island from Paris when his father died when he was twenty. He married a young woman named Eugenia, and she went stark raving mad. So he begins to rely more and more on Zarite. Of course there is the typical relationship of female slave and male master between them, but there is also something else. Toulouse genuinely cares about Zarite (sometimes), and he certainly couldn't do without her. I loved the setting of the book; the Caribbean Island rich with sugar cane. On the one hand, it's very beautiful and the whites live in big mansions, but on the other hand, field slaves must do backbreaking labor all day long in the sugar cane fields under the baking sun. Two very different seeming worlds, on the same island. Island Beneath the Sea also talks about the brutal revolution on the island that became Haiti. Of course the whites were very cruel towards their slaves, but then when the slaves rose up, they were just as terrible towards whites that they captured. That's not the way to restore peace of any sort; each side just keeps getting angrier and angrier.

Once again, Allende's writing style was quite absorbing; another great novel by her. It was different in that it wasn't at least partially set in Chile; she was trying to branch out a bit, and I think she succeeded very well.

Read Island Beneath the Sea:
  • if you like Isabel Allende
  • if you are interested in Saint-Domingue (Santo Domingo)
  • if you are like stories about complicated human relationships
457 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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