“Rhythm is born on that island beneath the sea; it shakes the earth, it cuts through me like a lightning bolt and rises toward the sky, carrying with it my sorrows so that Papa Bondye can chew them, swallow them, and leave me clean and happy” (Allende 1).

Initially apprehensive about reading Isabel Allende’s most recent novel, Island Beneath the Sea, this feeling has since changed. Since I find any or all of the books I’ve chosen to read at Barnes and Noble.com, it is only obvious that I am going to read the summaries to get a final feel–decisions, decisions. This title did not really need its summary to have me pulled in. Island Beneath the Sea. Intriguing. Captivating.

This novel is rich with detail and imagery. Haiti. New Orleans. While her peers  might not think highly of Allende, I can without a second thought say, she has a gift for imagery and tones that might otherwise be lost. This novel takes patience and an open mind–the beginning starts slowly–but once it starts to rev up–the story goes. Zarite’s life pulls the reader in–you are able to connect–and by that point, I was turning pages later and later into the evening than I had anticipated. I absolutely love the way Allende incorporates historical people and events into the novel–it is beautiful. It doesn’t read like a history book–but she makes an offhand comment about the event or person and continues on with the life that inspired the book–Zarite.

There are so many conflicts and themes inside this novel that I would love to delve deeper into. It involves most  conflicts: man vs. self, man vs. man, man vs. society, man vs. supernatural, and man vs. nature. In this case it would be woman vs. etc. And some amazing themes that I loved involved society and its impact upon gender roles within a time period. Freedom surrounding not only race and gender, but from fear and inhibitions. My favorite would be the conflict between love and family–more or less, the biases regarding how interconnected love is with family and the kind of  love that is deemed acceptable. Family in this sense is very loose because I consider Zarite to be a part of the Valmorain family.There are so, so, so many themes within this novel. All of these themes and conflicts just make the emotion in the novel tremble with brutal vulnerability.

Read NPR.org’s Review of Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea here.

This has quite possibly, so far, been the most provocative read I’ve had in sometime. I would not mind having this novel be a part of a novel course at my college. That would actually be fantastic! Zarite’s story is unforgettable and beautiful as it is horrific. I give Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea a 5 out of 5. Absolutely tantalizing.

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