Born on the island of Saint-Domingue, ZaritÉknown as TÉtÉis the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. Though her childhood is one of brutality and fear, TÉtÉ finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and the voodoo loa she discovers through her fellow slaves.
When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, its with powdered wigs in his trunks and dreams of financial success in his mind. But running his fathers plantation, Saint Lazare, is neither glamorous nor easy. Although Valmorain purchases young TÉtÉ for his bride, it is he who will become dependent on the services of his teenaged slave.
Against the merciless backdrop of sugarcane fields, the lives of TÉtÉ and Valmorain grow ever more intertwined. When the bloody revolution of Toussaint Louverture arrives at the gates of Saint Lazare, they flee the brutal conditions of the French colony, soon to become Haiti, for the raucous, free-wheeling enterprise of New Orleans. There TÉtÉ finally forges a new life, but her connection to Valmorain is deeper than anyone knows and not easily severed. With an impressive richness of detail, and a narrative wit and brio second to none, Allende crafts the riveting story of one womans determination to find love amid loss, to offer humanity though her own has been so battered, and to forge a new identity in the cruelest of circumstances.
“[An] entertaining sweep...The canvas contains no less than the revolutionary history of the world’s first black republic...Allende revels in period details...Her cast is equally vibrant...”
-New York Times Book Review
“Exuberant passions, strong heroines and intricate plots...a world as enchanted—and enchanting—as it is brutal and unjust... A page-turning drama.”
-San Francisco Chronicle
“Enthralling, blood-chilling, and heart-breaking…Island Beneath the Sea is a historical novel which works brilliantly in conveying the cyclone that was the eighteenth century.”
-The Huffington Post
“…with gorgeous place descriptions, a keen eye for history and a predilection for high drama…There are few more charming storytellers in the world than Isabel Allende.”
“Timely and absorbing…filled with adventure, vivid characters, and richly detailed descriptions of life in the Caribbean.”
“A lush epic of racism and rebellion which begins in Saint-Domingue (today’s Haiti)…In a culture of violence, Tété proves that ingenuity can be as heroic as love.”
-Cathleen Medwick, More magazine
“Epic scope and sweep…[Allende’s] characters, linked by blood, love triangles and even incest, have a depth and complexity that…imbues the proceedings with a lushness bordering on magic realism.”
“Two remarkable women whose destinies are entwined face the chaos of this time [eighteenth century Saint-Domingue]…Uncannily relevant.”
-Corrie Pikul, Elle
“A remarkable feat of prescience…Island Beneath the Sea is rich in drama, setting, themes, characters, dialogue and symbolism…an intriguing and wonderfully woven story.”
-San Antonio Express-News
An entrancing and astute storyteller…In a many-faceted plot, Allende animates irresistible characters authentic in their emotional turmoil and pragmatic adaptability…while masterfully dramatizing the psychic wounds of slavery.”
-Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)