I’ve recently been in the library and just decided to take some books I’ve never heard before and read them. So, one of them is Isabel Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea. I judged a book by its covers….again.
I have to admit that this was a long reading process, because of big number of pages (not much, but longer than usually), 522 to be exact. But, as time passed, it became very interesting and pages just seemed to turn on their own.
In the very beginning, there are many characters and it seems hard to follow all of them. They all have specific life stories, and it looks like there isn’t anything that could connect them.
We have Toulouse Valmorain, who arrives in Saint-Domingue to visit his father not even thinking that he’s going to stay there…well, forever. His father dies leaving a plantation in horrible condition, and Toulouse has to change his entire attitude about slavery and start to run plantation in Saint-Lazare so he can send money to his family in France.
After a while he buys Zarité known as Tété, on the recommendation of Violette Boisier, cocotte from Le Cap. So, Tété is actually a storyteller and through this book, she’s describing everything that happened since she became Valmorain’s slave.
Her life was everything but simple. In the period of late 18th century, black people were slaves in colonies and they were treated rough with no respect, like animals. It was a real luck if you were a home slave, like Zarité was. She was looking after Valmorain’s wife Eugenia who was mentally ill woman. But, on the other side, her owner was abusing her and since they slept together Zarité becomes pregnant. Valmorain takes her son away and gives him to his old friend-Violette. In the meantime Eugenia also has a baby. Her son’s name was Maurice and since she couldn’t look after him, Zarité takes care of him and he calls her ‘mom’. After a while Eugenia died, and Tété is pregnant again. This time, she has a beautiful girl called Rosette. She and Maurice become very close to each other, and they fall in love with each other although they know it’s forbidden-they are family.
After many years of torture, slaves in Saint-Domingue raise and destroy and kill white people-they want to be free. So, now the story is taking place in New Orleans. There are many plot twists in new destination (I know, can it be that there’s more?), but I guess you’ll have to read to find out.
This book just throws you hundreds of years back and it gave me a feeling that it really happened to someone. I can’t even imagine how was it for black people especially women to live and to survive back then when there was absolutely no understanding for them. There are many situations where you can see how monstrously were people treated. This book was written like a confession, like a true life story. There are many characters, yes, but they are there with a reason. To see how people act different in some situations. Maybe life puts us in hard situations sometimes, but when I read a book like this, it just makes me wonder are my problems really problems? Or I just see it like that. Maybe we should just find a strength in the moment and live our life the best way we can. That’s why it’s given to us.
‘We all have an unsuspected reserve of strength inside that emerges when life puts us to the test.’
I really enjoyed reading it, although it maybe isn’t the type of a book I usually read. If you haven’t read it yet, I would just tell you to do so and if you did, I want opinions! Thanks for reading,