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Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarité (Tété) is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. 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 cruelest of circumstances.
Kate Lochte says:
“‘The sweeping story of an unforgettable woman – a slave and concubine determined to claim her own destiny against impossible odds.’ That’s the jacket cover’s hyperbole. I didn’t find this novel as enchanting as Allende’s The House of Spirits. Island Beneath the Sea is a tough book with a bunch of sex. Some of it is of the hormonally-overcharged romance novel variety, but mostly it’s unforgivably hostile rape resulting in three mulatto children whose lives teeter between cruelty and love. The history passages weave in and out of the fictional stories of the slave, her owner, her lover, her friends and finally her husband, and align the plot, the people and the settings with reality, including the Haitian slave uprising led by Toussaint Louverture, the escaping of Haitians to Cuba, thence to New Orleans. Classism and racism threaten anyone on the wrong side of power. Viciousness is a heavy, persistent weight here. Then drums start beating and Tété begins to dance and she is free.