book reviews by Althea

Island Beneath the Sea – Isabel Allende ****

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For a great portion of this book, I kept trying to figure out why the characters seemed so very, very familiar… almost as if I’d read the book before, years ago. But it was only published two years ago, and my memory isn’t quite that bad! I even looked on the internet to try to find out if any excerpts had been previously published, or any short stories featuring the same characters… no.
Just as I sat down to write this review, I remembered: I went to see Allende at a live appearance, I believe shortly before this book was published, and she read a chapter from it!
So my memory may be bad, but…

So. That settled.
I really enjoyed this book. Yes, it can tend toward melodrama, but the events are suited to high drama. Allende has a real talent for creating rich settings and vivid characters. I feel that in this book, a complex time period and difficult social milieu is dealt with well, showing horrific situations from a multiplicity of perspectives, without shying away from the difficult aspects of showing slavery from both slaves’ and masters’ perspectives.

Zarite is a strong and memorable character – well, memorable enough that I felt like I knew her from hearing one chapter, even though I couldn’t remember why!

I have to admit, after ‘City of the Beasts,’ I was about ready to give up on Allende… but she’s still got it. I guess she just has an inexplicably poor opinion of the intelligence of younger people. (‘City of the Beasts’ was supposedly YA.) I know, I shouldn’t even be talking about it in an unrelated review. But, boy did it suck!


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