Monday, October 30, 2017

DNF Review: Island Beneath The Sea

Island Beneath The Sea
by Isabel Allende

Why did you choose this book? This was a book club selection
When did you read this book? June 2017
Who should read this book? Readers of historical fiction who have the patience for a slow start
Source: Library book club set
Here is a synopsis of Island Beneath The Sea from Goodreads
My Rating:  DNF
Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarité -- known as Tété -- is 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 in the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves.
When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, it’s with powdered wigs in his baggage and dreams of financial success in his mind. But running his father’s plantation, Saint-Lazare, is neither glamorous nor easy. It will be eight years before he brings home a bride -- but marriage, too, proves more difficult than he imagined. And Valmorain remains dependent on the services of his teenaged slave.
Spanning four decades, Island Beneath the Sea is the moving story of the intertwined lives of Tété and Valmorain, and of one woman’s determination to find love amid loss, to offer humanity though her own has been battered, and to forge her own identity in the cruellest of circumstances.
Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden.

My Review

My book club was looking for something to read and Isabel Allende came highly recommend. Island Beneath The Sea  was available from our local library as a book club set, which we took as a good sign since at least three book clubs sponsored by the library had to request the book before it could be ordered as a book club set. The cover is beautiful! And the synopsis certainly sounded promising. But in the end, the book just didn’t work for me.

I’m not sure why. The writing was beautiful and detailed, and at first that was a plus to me, as the beautiful island scenery was described. However as the book progressed, the detailed writing became too much for me, especially when the story became dark. I was not able to connect with any of the characters, and the few times when I felt close to connecting, the story suddenly switch gears. I got about a third of the way through the book when I had to admit that I wasn’t enjoying the book at all, and the only reason I was reading at this point was to get through it for our book club discussion. When I realized that there was not enough time left for me to finish the book for our discussion, I decided not to invest any more of my time in the book and I gave up on it.

I wish this hadn’t been my first experience with the author, because I have heard good things about her, but at this point I am reluctant to try her again. However, that is my experience. I should add that the book was not popular with my book club, however Island Beneath The Sea is rated highly on Goodread and many reads love Isabel Allende. You should read other reviews before you decide this book is not for you!
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  1. Your reaction to this reminds me of how I felt about Adriana Trigiani's The Shoemaker's Wife. The writing was gorgeous, but that just wasn't enough to make me enjoy it!

    1. Oh, I definitely didn't feel that way about The Shoemaker's Wife. That may be one of my favorite books ever! Possibly because the main characters started out in the same area my grandfather was from and I was able to pretend it was a 'coming to America' story of my ancestors.

  2. What a shame. I've always wanted to rad something by Allende so I'm going to make sure this isn't the first one I pick up.