Wednesday, July 14, 2010

touchy issues, important themes.

The setting of Island Beneath the Sea is Haiti. Perfect timing right? I think it is really important for Americans to learn about other countries and their cultures. Haiti became so popular because of the earthquake, but what about before? We should be aware of our surroundings, and Haiti is definitely close enough to be considered a surrounding.

Isabel Allende takes us on a journey into the life of a Haitian slave during a bloody revolution at the end of the 18th century. Zarité (our heroine, known as Teté) bares two of her plantation master's (Toulouse Valmorain) children. Allende's descriptions of how slaves were treated will undoubtedly effect you. Yet, despite the constant abuse, Teté will not give up hope that her destiny includes more than her life as a slave. She is a strong and beautiful character. She is wonderfully supported by Tante Rose, the local voodoo and healer leader, the freedom fighters (including Tetés lover, Gambo) and Parmentier, the local white doctor. Together these fictional characters develop in a compelling story filled with facts on the religion and culture of Haiti.

It's not easy to make a book filled with such an uncomfortable subject matter entertaining, but Allende pulled it off.

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