Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Book Review: Island Beneath the Sea

A Historical Novel Set in Haiti

This novel provides in depth characters in a rich story set in the 1700's mostly in Haiti. Through this story of intertwined lives, I learned a lot about the history of this county and its ties to France that developed a unique culture and set forth a struggle for independence.

The story provides two distinct, yet intertwined, stories of individuals. There is Valmorain, who comes from France, to make a his own fortune from the plantation he has inherited from his father. He first must come to terms with how to make a life in this harsh land and how to work to have riches. He tries to bring France and the conventions of that past life with him but it is a struggle. The wife he sought out to make a family does not end up providing him with the comfort, solace and life he imagined and he ends up turning to a mullato slave in his own home for many of those things. The dependence and attraction that he finds for her distrubs him and he struggles with these feelings and what he thinks is acceptable in his society and class system.

The story also provides us much of the same history from Zarite's perspective. She comes to Valmorain's home as a house maid but becomes so much more, even bearing a child for the master that adds layers of complexity to their relationship. It becomes even harder to define as a revolution occcurs that take both Zarite and Valmorian to Cuba and then to Lousiana.

There are a host of other characters in this story that brings forth many more challenges and complex relationships as race is a central issue in this book. Love and it's various forms are often challenged as each person must find their own way and their own identity despite what each culture (Haiti, Cuba, and then the United States) creates its own social conventions.

Great Book!

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