Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
First, just take a moment to look at the fabulous cover Harper Perennial is using for Isabel Allende's Island beneath the Sea. Isn't it wonderful? One shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but in this case you can rest assured that the novel inside is just as stunning.
Here's the publisher's summary:
Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue—the daughter of an African mother she never knew and a white sailor who brought her into bondage—Zarité, known as Tété, survives a childhood of brutality and fear, finding solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in her exhilarating initiation into the mysteries of voodoo.Pretty much all I needed to know about this book was that Allende was the author. But when I learned that the novel took place in the Caribbean in the late 1700s, I was even more intrigued. Allende has proven her ability to immerse the reader in a historical setting and draw believable characters; Island beneath the Sea does not disappoint her fans.
When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, he discovers that running his father's plantation is neither glamorous nor easy. Marriage also proves problematic when, eight years later, he brings home a bride. But it is his teenaged slave, Tété, upon whom Valmorain becomes most dependent, as their lives intertwine across four tumultuous decades.
In Island Beneath the Sea, internationally acclaimed author Isabel Allende spins the unforgettable saga of an extraordinary woman determined to find love amid loss and forge her own identity under the cruelest of circumstances.
Zarité is strong in the face of what she cannot change and has the courage and will to survive and adapt. Life for a slave girl was not pretty and Allende doesn't sugar-coat the situation, accentuating the gulf separating Zarité's world from that of a plantation owner.
Other aspects of the plot that interest me are the elements of voodoo (a cultural force in both the Caribbean and New Orleans), the rebellion that led to Haiti's independence, and the gritty side of life in the American South in the years after the Revolution.
Here are some other thoughts:
- Betsy Willeford, writing for the Herald Tribune: "Allende is deservedly renowned for her finely honed awareness of injustice, for her often nuanced description of life—whether in a house or a nation—under dictatorship. She is sometimes described as a writer of magic realism, and Haiti then and now is fraught with both."
- Phyllis writing for the APOOO BookClub: "Besides being entertained (as well as one could be considering certain themes of the book), I was inspired and educated—I learned a lot. . . . I would recommend [the novel] to historical fiction fans with an interest in the Haitian Revolution, French colonialism, and the African Diaspora."
- David Hendricks, writing for the San Antonio Express-News: "Reading Island Beneath the Sea can be a shortcut to understanding Haiti's longtime struggle and its new challenge of recovering from devastation. Along the way, readers also will be rewarded with an intriguing and wonderfully woven story."
Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.