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Many years ago, I began with Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna, and then The Stories of Eva Luna.  By now, I don’t keep track of the number of her books I have read, although I could probably figure it out if I put my mind to it!!  Some I read in the original Spanish; others in English if I can’t find the original version.

But, why read Allende’s work?  First – she is a great story teller.  Other reasons include her usually portraying a resolute woman whom the reader can’t help but admire, using magical realism (more in some books than in others), using words to paint pictures, and having provocative lines that lead readers beyond the story itself to ponder the human situation.

I just finished Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea, having checked it out of our local library as an E-book and onto my Kindle.  It touched me deeply.  My imagination has allowed me to feel some of the pathos of the story of Tete (Zarite), the slave girl who finally is emancipated in her late twenties.  When the story concludes she is living in New Orleans, having fled Haiti to escape the massacres happening there during the uprisings of the slaves.

Although I didn’t begin noting quotes immediately, by the end of the book the following had accumulated (citations refer to the Harper Collins publication of 2010).  As you will see, Allende deals with power, race, oppression, God, adversity, greed, pretentions, self-centeredness, pride, sorrow and consolation.  As you read these, you will note that they are all much more than personal idiosyncrasies; they are part and parcel of the human condition.   Truth is to be acknowledged whoever is its source or communicator.

  • “for a slave beauty was no favor, invisibility was much more desirable.” (p. 149)
  • “Valmorain . . .did not believe in anything he did not understand, and as he understood very little he believed in nothing.” (p. 157)
  • “The worst of the twenty-three years at Saint-Lazare had been the absolute power he held over other lives, with its burden of temptations and degradation.”  Said about Valmorain after he had moved to Louisiana. (p. 241)
  • “She knew it would be male because God was determined to test her patience.” said about Murphy’s wife when pregnant after already having given birth to six sons. (p. 247)
  • “Too much power destroys the soul of any Christian, and mine is weak,” said by Murphy, an Irish Christian working for Valmorain in Louisiana.  (p. 248).
  • “It was not in her character to complain about what she didn’t have but to be grateful for what she did.”  said about Adele Parmentier, the doctor’s wife.  (p. 307)
  • “Decency quickly succumbs before greed.  If it’s a matter of getting rich, the majority of men will sacrifice their soul.  You cannot imagine how well the planters in Georgia live, thanks to their slaves.. . . Love of justice is not enough to defeat slavery, Maurice; you have to see the reality and know in detail the laws and gears of politics. This is what Harrison Cobb told Maurice Valmorain. (p. 379)
  • Astounded, she realized that her former master did not have the least idea of how much she detested him; he knew nothing of the black rock she had carried in her heart from the time he raped her when she was eleven, he did not know guilt or remorse—maybe the minds of whites did not even register the suffering they caused others. Her rancor had choked her alone, it had not touched him. Tete ponders these things about Valmorain. (p. 440) 
  • Maurice merely needs time to grow weary. Walking and walking across the world he will gradually find consolation, and one day, when he is too fatigued to take another step, he will realize that he cannot escape sorrow, he will have to tame it, so it doesn’t harass him. Tete reflecting on how the death of Rosette has impacted Maurice. (p. 455) 
  • She knows the ways of men and doesn’t expect them to be faithful, but she insists that her lover at least not humiliate her.  Tete describing Violette Boisier  (p. 456) 

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