22 April 2011

Imprint Friday: Island beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

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.

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.
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.

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."
To learn more about Isabel Allende and her work, visit her website. To get a taste of her writing style, see the teaser I posted last year.

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.

Island beneath the Sea at an Indie
Island beneath the Sea at Powell's
Island beneath the Sea at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061988257


Anonymous,  4/22/11, 7:05 AM  

My book group read Isabel Allende's nonfiction book, PAULA, about her daughter last year. We had a great discussionn of that book and also the rest of Allende's work. Our discussion leader was a lovely lady that grew up in Cuba and she brought a lot to her introduction of this author. I have meant to read more since that time, but you know how that goes. This book sounds very appealing. Thanks for sharing about it!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 4/22/11, 7:14 AM  

This ha been on my TBR list. I have enjoyed this author in the past. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Have a great weekend.

Anonymous,  4/22/11, 7:41 AM  

I have this book, but haven't read it yet. Your post makes me think it's better than I thought it was, so I'll try and read it sooner rather than later. Thanks!

jayayceeblog 4/22/11, 8:19 AM  

Reading is such a wonderful vehicle of escapism and this looks like a true escape. I am interested in the voodoo aspect, too. Definitely going on my To Read List. Thanks!

Zibilee 4/22/11, 9:08 AM  

I had no idea that this book was even out there, but the subject matter just intrigues the heck out of me. Thanks for sharing this with us. I am off to add it to my wish list now!

Barbara 4/22/11, 9:54 AM  

I have no idea why this is, but I have never read Isabel Allende despite hearing such wonderful things about her books through the years. Determined to put that to rights now.

Vasilly 4/22/11, 10:01 AM  

I love this cover!It's so beautiful and interesting. It makes you wonder what the woman is thinking about. I haven't read anything by Allende before.

Beth Hoffman 4/22/11, 10:33 AM  

I'd not heard of this book until reading your post, but it's definitely going on my list.

Have a happy weekend!

bermudaonion 4/22/11, 12:37 PM  

I've never read any of Allende's work, but listened to an interview of her and have been fascinated every since. This is a book I'm definitely interested in. I agree the cover is fabulous!

Margot 4/22/11, 12:58 PM  

I haven't read an Allende book either but this points up why I like your imprint Friday. You are always pointing us to some new treasures.

Audra 4/22/11, 1:07 PM  

Just got Inés of My Soul to read which I'm so excited for -- I've wanted to read Allende for forever and a day -- seeing her books reissued with these gorgeous covers has me so excited to collect them all!

Darlene 4/22/11, 1:10 PM  

I have a few of Allende's novels but have yet to read them. This one sounds so good that I should really move it up in the never ending pile. I agree on that cover- it's fantastic! Great post!

Unknown 4/22/11, 1:53 PM  

Isabel Allende is a wonderful, compelling writer. I've read a couple of her books over the years and loved them and will be reviewing 2 in the next several weeks. This book is on my list to pick up my next book buying trip. It sounds captivating but one thing I know about Isabel Allende is any book she writes will be beautiful and interesting!

Unknown 4/22/11, 2:44 PM  

Sounds like a fascinating read. And you're right that is a very striking cover!

TheBookGirl 4/22/11, 3:27 PM  

I have never read Allende before, and this one sounds wonderful. Zarite' sounds like a fascinating character...

Dorte H 4/22/11, 3:53 PM  

I know I should, but I haven´t got round to reading anything by Allende yet. The cover is indeed wonderful.

Michelle 4/22/11, 4:39 PM  

Ever since my trip to New Orleans earlier this year, I've been wanting to read more about the influence of voodoo on its culture. I've read a bit on the Haitian rebellion and know it is a fascinating subject. You have definitely piqued my interest with this spotlight, and I am adding this one to my wish list immediately. Thanks!

Jesse 4/22/11, 7:09 PM  

This looks great! I love your Imprint Friday posts :)

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 4/23/11, 8:00 AM  

Yes! This cover grabs my attention!

The only Allende I've read is DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE; must add this to my list, the setting intrigues me.

Hillary 4/23/11, 8:41 AM  

This sounds like a book I would love. It has been put on my TBR list. Thanks for reviewing.

Uniflame 4/23/11, 10:22 AM  

I read Isabel Allende once in school for my Spanish class. But haven't read anything from her since. This however does sound very interesting.

Chinoiseries 4/25/11, 4:21 AM  

You are right, that cover is stunning. I am still a bit ambivalent though, have Allende's The Sum of Our Days gathering dust on my shelves, but maybe this is a sign to give it another go?

Meghan 4/25/11, 10:25 AM  

Ooh, I can't wait for this! I love Allende's work so much and it definitely sounds excellent.

SuziQoregon 4/25/11, 5:34 PM  

This one sounds interesting. I listened to one Isabel Allende book and read another. They were both beautifully written. The setting of this one definitely makes me very interested.

Tea,  6/6/11, 3:32 PM  

Oh boy, the story sounds so interesting. Allende as the author does make me move a little quicker to find a copy. Thanx for a great review.

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