The Island Beneath the Sea was my first book by Isabel Allende, but I really enjoyed and plan to seek out more (suggestions? leave me a comment). Her writing reminded me in a way of John Irving’s, in that rather than being plot-driven, she simply follows the life of her main character, and lets us see what happens to her and her family. The novel flows beautifully, and covers over forty years in the life of a slave named Zarité (aka Tete).
Tete is a mixed-blood slave, purchased at age 10 by a Frenchman named Toulouse Valmorain to run his plantation on Saint-Domingue (Haiti). The book begins in the 1770s, just prior the French Revolution (and its counter-part in Haiti) and follows Tete through the birth of her children, her attempts to become free and her journey that is inexorably tied with the horrible Valmorain.
The supporting cast in this novel are fantastic. I loved the healer on the plantation, the mixed-blood courtesan who takes Tete in, the Irish family who run the fields. Characters talk politics, argue about abolition and discuss religion. Throughout it all, there’s an undercurrent of Haitian spiritualism and music that ties everything in Tete’s life together.
I would highly recommend this book, especially for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It starts slow, but really takes off when the Revolution hit, then I couldn’t put it down.
I didn’t like this one as much as some of her other novels but I think that’s because I recognized certain character types that appear in all her novels. Ines my Soul is good for stand alone; I love The House of Spirits and Daughter of Fortune is a sequel of sorts but can be read independently or first. Portrait in Sepia takes place between those two but definitely shouldn’t be read until you read those two. Hope this helps! I love her novels.
That’s great information, thank you!