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Island Beneath the Sea
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Archive: Other Books > Island Beneath the Sea, by Isabel Allende; 5 Stars

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Hahtoolah | 432 comments Island Beneath the Sea, by Isabel Allende, is a historical novel that takes place on the Caribbean island of Saint-Domingue (current day Haiti) and New Orleans from the late 1700s, through the French Revolution slave rebellion of Saint-Domingue of 1804, and the Louisiana Purchase. The novel follows a young slave girl, Zarité, known as Tété. The novel is mostly told in third person, but some chapters are narrated by Zarité.

In the 1700s, wealthy French plantation owners ran and operated sugar plantations on Saint-Domingue. Young Toulouse Valmorain left France to travel to Saint-Domingue to assist his father with the family’s plantation. He intended to stay only a few weeks, but when he arrived, he found his father dying and the sugar plantation in deplorable conditions. He soon found himself inheriting the sugar plantation, complete with hundreds of slaves. When he married, he purchased Tété for his spoiled, Spanish/Cuban bride.

Compared to his neighboring plantation owners, Valmorain was relatively kind, however, he allowed his ruthless overseer handle discipline. When his wife became ill, Tété tended to her. Valmorain found the young Tété attractive, and soon called her to his bed. As a slave, Tété had no alternative but to obey his call, even though she was just a child when he first began his sexual relationshio (rape) with her. She bore him two children, the first of which was quickly whisked away from her, while the second, was raised in the plantation home along with Valmorain’s legitimate son.

The novel described the beginning of the slave revolt, which was led by the historical figure of Toussaint Louverture. When Tété learned that the rebellion was approaching her master’s plantation, and that the master and his house slaves would be slaughter, she convincee Valmorain to pack up his family and leave the plantation in the middle of the night. Eventually, they arrived in Louisiana, where Valmorain, through his brother-in-law, had purchased property and made contacts.

Valmorain had promised to free Tété and her daughter, and had given her a written document to that effect, however, he also convinced her that her freedom would not become effective until she turned 30 years old.

The novel vividly describes life in New Orleans under Spanish rule in the late 1700s before it came under French, then American governance.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book with its glimpse into this historical period.

message 2: by NancyJ (last edited Jan 21, 2020 07:56PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5580 comments Wonderful review! I'm glad to see it. I'm looking forward to reading it myself sometime this year. I've become really interested in this time period, and I haven't read anything by her in years.

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7875 comments I love her writing. Eagerly awaiting her new book this Spring. Lovely review!

message 4: by Doughgirl5562 (new)

Doughgirl5562 | 754 comments Oooh - this looks good!

message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan Lewallen (susanlewallen) | 551 comments Thanks for a nice review. This has been waiting fo me on my Kindle for some time. I love Allende and perhaps I'll move it up!

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6015 comments My F2F book group really liked this one.

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