Home-from-Vacation Update

I am officially home from vacation 🙂 I did a lot of reading while I was away, because it was a little cooler than normal summers. However, as much reading as I did, I only finished 1 book completely and read about half of another, which I just finished today.

One thing that I realized when I couldn’t write on this blog was that, given I have the time, I like to write about my reactions to my books as I read them and not just sum everything up at the end of the novel. I realize that this means I will include spoilers, but I will give fair warning, if that is the case.


The book I read while on vacation was called Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. I will post what I physically wrote on vacation in this post, but create a separate post for my review/summary of it.

June 28, 2010
I’m really liking this so far! I’m about 1/4 into it, and we still haven’t gotten to the slave revolution in Haiti. From the description on the book jacket, I’d thought this revolution would make up a major part. It could still be, since I’m not that far into it.

Nevertheless, I’m still enjoying how it is being built up! Haiti seems exotic, but the slavery really isn’t different from what it would be if it had been set in the American colonies. One part that particularly interested me is Eugenia. ~*~SPOILER~*~ She is the wife of a French plantation owner and she is , essentially, demented. She reminds me of Radcliffe’s wife in Jane Eyre, except her husband doesn’t hide her–he just ignores she exists. He thinks it’s his responsibility to put up with her and not place her somewhere. ~*~END SPOILER~*~ Eugenia also believes deeply in the voodoo that the slaves practice, and I think it’s very interesting how that voodoo works.

Another interesting occurrence so far into this book is a conversation about whether or not Africans are human. The plantation owner, obviously, feels they are less than human, while someone he knows feels the opposite. Here is the owner’s rationale: “Blacks have the constitution for heavy work, they feel less pain and fatigue, their brain power is limited, they do not know how to make choices, they are violent, disorderly, lazy, and they lack ambition and noble sentiments.” (p81) It makes me sad as a human being to know that people for the longest time believed this was true…and some still do, to an extent.

June 29, 2010
I’ve finally reached the point in the novel when the revolution started. Now that I think about it, Allende didn’t spend too much time building up to it. Now that it has happened, she skips right ahead to the life for Valmorain (plantation owner) and Tete (slave, narrator for some chapters) and the children after they flee Saint Domnigue (Haiti). This surprised me, as I figured the whole novel would be more historical than fiction and I’m starting to wonder if it can be historical fiction.

While discussing the revolts and rebellion, Allende brought up something I hadn’t thought of before. She wrote: “The [white] women were converted into slaves and concubines, just as black women had been on the plantations.” I suppose I didn’t think about it because we didn’t have major slave revolts in the US.

~*~SPOILER~*~ The overseer of Valmorain’s plantation, Prosper Cambray, found it cowardly that Valmorain would flee when the slaves marched en masse toward his house. Cambray later kills himself because slaves were too close to capturing him. Contradictory? I think so. ~*~END SPOILER~*~

I was a little disappointed in something Allende did. She did something I think was very predictable. ~*~SPOILER~*~ She killed off Relais! The army officer. She alluded to Relais and Violette (his wife) having seen each other for the last time. So either of them could’ve died. I had hoped she might kill Violette as it wasn’t as probable as Relais dying, because it would be less predictable (not that I wanted either to die). ~*~END SPOILER~*~

You might wonder, why even write something if it’s got a lot of spoilers in it. But I think it’s important to keep all thoughts together. This way if someone who has read the book as well wants to, they can easily respond to it. And for those who might be interested and want a peek of the book, the spoilers can get them interested 😀


2 thoughts on “Home-from-Vacation Update

  1. Dominique says:

    I often struggle with the idea of including spoilers or not, I usually include them now with a warning because sometimes the plot points are really quite critical to my experience of and opinion of the book. Also by including pertinent spoilers it allows me to have a more meaningful discussion with others who have read the book as opposed to not including them.
    This sounds like an interesting book. I absolutely adored The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende and I have her back catalogue of books all sitting on my shelves ready to be read. I’d like to read this but I should probably read the others first. I’ve heard this new one features less magical realism than her other books, did you find there to be little of this in it?

    • Kristie says:

      From what I understand magical realism to be, I would have to say that this book didn’t appear to have much of it. There wasn’t a whole lot of what I would classify magical. There were, however, characters that believed in magical/religious things, such as voodoo, but it definitely didn’t overpower the novel. And so some description, as it was mostly a 3rd person novel, did contain some supernatural features, as the main character/narrator for some chapters deeply believed in the voodoo.
      Does that answer your question? 🙂

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