Saturday, January 26, 2013

Island Beneath the Sea

Book Review

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende.

This is something I kept seeing again and again and again at the library. In large print.

It is by the same author that wrote Inés of My Soul and I enjoyed that. This is usually a good sign.

And large print is good. I like large print for reading on the treadmill.

I needed something to get me back on the treadmill. I'd been away far too long, due to traveling so much.

I've been staying at a hotel that doesn't have an exercise room. I'm not a happy camper when the hotel doesn't have a treadmill, let alone any exercise room at all.

If I stumble upon the right book, I will want to get on the treadmill more and more often and for longer and longer. That is the true test of a good book!

I thought this book could be that, but there was only one way to find out. I had to check it out.

Island Beneath the Sea

So I did. And I got on the treadmill with it. More than once.

But then I had travel again. And I do not like to travel with large print books. So, I left it home.

And I found that after I returned home, despite waiting for me, this book didn't entice me back onto the treadmill.

Not a good sign.

A short couple of weeks went by with little, if any, reading getting done and then it was time to travel yet again.

This time I wanted to take the book with me. I wanted to finish it. I looked it up and found that my local library had a regular print copy on the shelf. Great! I could travel with that copy instead.

Actually, not so great. The regular print copy was physically larger with its industrial binding and all, than the large print copy.

So much for that great idea. I had to travel with the large print copy after all. Which I did.

And after all of that effort and all of that travel, I still didn't finish it.

Doubly not a good sign. So, what was it about this book that wasn't getting me to finish it?

This is a historical fiction story about the late eighteen century island of Saint-Domingue, which is current day Haiti. Slaves, plantations, masters, mixed races, lovers, political upheavals, social classes, revolt, war, rebellion, blood, fire, escape, and emancipation. It is all here, spanning forty years of one slave's life.

There's lots of plot here, as you might guess. There are enough characters. There just isn't enough dialogue.

Not enough dialogue.

Hundreds and hundreds of pages of narration is what is here.

And even our protagonist slave only gets the infrequent chapter devoted to her voice.

This was a great disappointment to me, since I had enjoyed Inés so much. But thinking back, maybe Inés was full of narration too. But there, I felt in touch with the protagonist. It was her story.

Here, in Island Beneath the Sea, I never felt close enough to our protagonist's own story. We are given brief snippets surrounded by much of the immediate world around her, but that is from an outsider's view. Not her view.

Yet, the historical perspective is interesting and, as I already mentioned, there is plenty of plot to keep things moving.

If you are at all interested in this part of Haiti's history, give this a read. You'll just have to find something other than a treadmill to inspire you to keep reading.

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