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Island Beneath the Sea: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 27, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061988243
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061988240
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 6.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (448 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #414,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

[Signature]Reviewed by Marlon JamesOf the many pitfalls lurking for the historical novel, the most dangerous is history itself. The best writers either warp it for selfish purposes (Gore Vidal), dig for the untold, interior history (Toni Morrison), or both (Jeannette Winterson). Allende, four years after Ines of My Soul, returns with another historical novel, one that soaks up so much past life that there is nowhere left to go but where countless have been. Opening in Saint Domingue a few years before the Haitian revolution would tear it apart, the story has at its center Zarité, a mulatto whose extraordinary life takes her from that blood-soaked island to dangerous and freewheeling New Orleans; from rural slave life to urban Creole life and a different kind of cruelty and adventure. Yet even in the new city, Zarité can't quite free herself from the island, and the people alive and dead that have followed her.Zarité's passages are striking. More than merely lyrical, they map around rhythms and spirits, making her as much conduit as storyteller. One wishes there was more of her because, unlike Allende, Zarité is under no mission to show us how much she knows. Every instance, a brush with a faith healer, for example, is an opportunity for Allende to showcase what she has learned about voodoo, medicine, European and Caribbean history, Napoleon, the Jamaican slave Boukman, and the legendary Mackandal, a runaway slave and master of black magic who has appeared in several novels including Alejo Carpentier's Kingdom of This World. The effect of such display of research is a novel that is as inert as a history textbook, much like, oddly enough John Updike's Terrorist, a novel that revealed an author who studied a voluminous amount of facts without learning a single truth.Slavery as a subject in fiction is still a high-wire act, but one expects more from Allende. Too often she forgoes the restraint and empathy essential for such a topic and plunges into a heavy breathing prose reminiscent of the Falconhurst novels of the 1970s, but without the guilty pleasure of sexual taboo. Sex, overwritten and undercooked, is where opulent hips slithered like a knowing snake until she impaled herself upon his rock-hard member with a deep sigh of joy. Even the references to African spirituality seem skin-deep and perfunctory, revealing yet another writer too entranced by the myth of black cultural primitivism to see the brainpower behind it. With Ines of My Soul one had the sense that the author was trying to structure a story around facts, dates, incidents, and real people. Here it is the reverse, resulting in a book one second-guesses at every turn. Of course there will be a forbidden love. Betrayal. Incest. Heartbreak. Insanity. Violence. And in the end the island in the novel's title remains legend. Fittingly so, because to reach the Island Beneath the Sea, one would have had to dive deep. Allende barely skims the surface.Marlon James's recent novel, The Book of Night Women was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award.
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Readers and critics often revere the Chilean-born Allende for her grand, sweeping, magical realism novels, but many reviewers expressed some disappointment with this latest offering. The Miami Herald critic noted: "The prose is too often the mating of a celeb magazine and a master's thesis," and several agreed the book felt overwritten. Others were unimpressed by the characters' lack of complexity and believability. On a positive note, many critics enjoyed the storytelling, with women at the forefront, and others praised the novel's respectful portrayal of voodoo practices. For those hoping to learn more about Haiti's slave rebellion, however, it might be best to seek out Madison Smartt Bell's acclaimed fictional trilogy: All Soul's Rising, Master of the Crossroads, and The Stone that the Builder Refused (**** Mar/Apr 2005).

More About the Author

Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of eight novels, including, most recently, Zorro, Portrait in Sepia, and Daughter of Fortune. She has also written a collection of stories; three memoirs, including My Invented Country and Paula; and a trilogy of children's novels. Her books have been translated into more than twenty-seven languages and have become bestsellers across four continents. In 2004 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Isabel Allende lives in California.

My thoughts on Kindle en Español:

"El impacto de los libros electrónicos es formidable y está remeciendo a la industria del libro tanto como a los lectores. Aunque todavía la idea es relativamente nueva en español, ya se ha extendido en otras lenguas tan dramáticamente, que muchos autores nuevos publican en versión digital, saltándose a las editoriales. Confieso que soy adicta a mis Kindle y mi IPad, donde leo con letra grande y clara, en una pantalla liviana. Antes viajaba con una maleta de libros, ahora llevo mi biblioteca en la cartera y puedo adquirir nuevos libros en cualquier parte del mundo en pocos segundos. Dicen que los jóvenes le tienen miedo al papel y no tienen el hábito de leer - lo cual no es totalmente cierto - pero ahora pueden leer en sus pantallas. También dicen que la ficción desaparecerá, pero eso jamás ocurrirá, porque la humanidad necesita historias tanto como necesita oxígeno. Tal vez en el futuro el libro, ese compañero maravilloso, será un objeto de coleccionistas y de bibliotecas y nosotros, simples mortales, leeremos en pantallas. Pero seguiremos leyendo, de eso no tengo dudas." Isabel Allende

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

158 of 169 people found the following review helpful By bibliophile on April 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am originally from Haiti, and is currently reading this book on my Kindle. I absolutely love it. It's obvious the author did hours of research on the history of Haiti, and it's then relationship with France. The accuracy of the cruelty of slavery, including the treatment of Mulattos towards the blacks. The intertwining of Christianity, versus the need of the Africans to hold onto the practice of Voodoo. After all, what appeared as the "white's" religion, was used to justify their oppresion. It is a very informative read. I highly recommend it.
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91 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Isabel Allende is a great writer. A serious writer. A very profound and emotional writer. She hails from Chile, where her father, renowned and devoted activist Salvador Allende, tried to change the world but ended up losing his life instead. She is fascinated with the ideas of war and virtue, about dedication to one's country and the need to change it, to love in all its splendor and the raucous power of emotion gone wrong. Although she doesn't use much in the way of magic in her work, her books reflect a certain belief in the universe as a spirit with power that manipulates and frustrates the human puppets it places on earth.

In ISLAND BENEATH THE SEA, Allende looks at two people: a slave who grows into her own with a talent in voodoo, and Toulouse Valmorain, a young man who is trying to fit into society's predetermined characteristics of a successful young man. Both of their travails are difficult, and they find themselves drawn to and dependent upon each other for their survival in some very rough waters. The island of the title is Saint-Domingue, and 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." Tété finds solace from the daily horrors and fears of her childhood in the traditional rhythms of African drums as well as the voodoo loas she comes to be educated in by her fellow slaves.

Twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain comes to Saint-Dominigue in 1770. It's as if he's a contemporary financier who is coming to Manhattan to become a billionaire. With a bevy of powdered wigs in his baggage, he comes to run his father's plantation, Saint Lazare. The work is hard, more difficult than he could have been prepared to expect.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Johnson on May 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of Ms. Allende's books for some time and this one does not disappoint. The first reviewer made a point that the book casts the stereotype that all Whites are evil. I do not believe that is the writer's intent. There were atrocities that were commited by the Blacks as well. What I see is the book showing the destructive cycle to so much and so many that slavery causes. Haiti has never recovered from what took place in that country 200 years ago and the earthquake has set it back many, many more years. I applaud the effort in the research that Ms. Allende took the time to make in order to incorporate the history and fictional characters in this book. It made me want to do my own "homework" to find out about the Haitian Revolt and the people who were responsible for initiating the abolishmnent of slavery. Tete and her family's fortunes and tragedies are very real ones. All the horrors she documents are very much connected to forceably keeping people in bondage.

This book was so beautifully written. Kudos to Isabel. Her books are well worth the effort that she puts into them.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on July 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The mulatto slave Zarité, known as Tété, and her owner, the French planter Toulouse Valmorain form the center of Allende's novel about slavery and the slave revolt that freed Haiti.

Valmorain came to the island at the age of 20, a rich noble anxious for a quick return to Paris. But the death of his father and the disarray of his sugar plantation make escape impossible, so Valmorain throws himself into making the property a success. His right hand man in this is the brutal overseer Prosper Cambray, feared by all.

Cambray lusts after Tété, Valmorain's wife's maid and soon, as the wife descends more deeply into madness, Valmorain's mistress and primary caretaker of his son. Tété's own son with Valmorain has been taken from her, she knows not where, and her lover, a young, proud African, runs off to join the rebels.

The first half centers on the brief, degraded lives of slaves on the island and the build-up to the slave revolt. Allende fills in a lot of political and emotional detail: the French Revolution so far away, the failed slave revolts of the past, the fears of the vastly outnumbered whites.

The second half takes Tété and Valmorain to Cuba, then New Orleans, as they flee Toussaint L'Ouverture's rebellion. Allende's historical focus is masterful, from the economic and intellectual views on slavery and slaves by landowners, to the remnants of African culture - like voodoo - that the slaves clung to.

The brutality is mindboggling, of course, and Allende goes into it in great detail. It's detail, actually, which makes this less than her best. So determined is she to get across the despicable history of slavery, she loses the individuals among the archetypes.
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