Island Beneath The Sea by Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende’s appeal as a novelist hasn’t just been her fascinating background — she grew up in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Lebanon and was the cousin of deposed Chilean President Salvador Allende — but also her lyrical, enchanting narrative style, at times a kind of Day-Glo version of magical realism. Her latest novel, Island Beneath the Sea, is a sprawling, multifaceted historical epic, like her 1982 best-seller, The House of Spirits, and her underrated Ines of My Soul. Island Beneath the Sea follows a young woman born into slavery, Tete, and her master, Toulouse Valmorain, through Haiti and New Orleans, over several years. While Allende has always been comfortable chronicling grand passion and deep love, she’s at her best here when she’s angry — her descriptions of the treatment of Valmorain’s slaves, particularly the sexual assault of Tete, are shocking. At its best, Island Beneath the Seais elegant, moving and infused with a real sense of loss.