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  • Location: Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, New Orleans

The Island Beneath the Sea

The Island Beneath the Sea

Why a Booktrail?

1770 to 1810: From slavery and rebellion in Haiti to racial and family problems in Louisiana. Three families and spans the years 1770 to 1810

  • ISBN: 978-0007348657
  • Translator: Margaret Sayers Peden
  • Genre: Fiction, Historical

What you need to know before your trail

From the sugar plantations of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) to the lavish parlours of New Orleans, this is the story of a mulatta woman, a slave and concubine, determined to take control of her own destiny in a society where even that very idea seems an impossible dream

Born a slave, Tété is the product of a violent union between one of the white sailors and an African mother she has never known. That same sailor has now taken her into bondage.

In 1770, Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island dreaming of financial success by running his father’s plantation, Saint Lazare. But life here is not at all what he imagined.

The fates of Tété and Valmorain grow ever more intertwined. But then revolution arrives at the gates of Saint Lazare, and they are forced to flee the island. Is the beginning for them of the beginning of the end?

Travel Guide

Saint Domingue (Haiti)

A French colony (in fact the wealthiest) which only operates its sugar trade thanks to the hard work, sweat and tears of its slaves. When

Toulouse Valmorain arrives, he’s there to take over his family’s plantation of Saint-Lazare. The work is hard and although he has ideas of equality, there’s hard to put into practice. This is a harsh landscape –

“Valmorrain had read somewhere that the original inhabitants of the island, the Arawaks, had called in Haiti before the conquistadores changed the name of La Espanola and killed off the natives”.

This is the home of Tété    the product of a violent union between an African mother and a white sailor. Her fate is swept up in the political and social chaos of the time . This is the time of the French revolution and civil war and Saint Domingue becomes a place of destruction.

Tété  comes to help with the running of  the house and –

“survives a childhood of brutality and fear, finding solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in her exhilarating initiation into the mysteries of voodoo.”

Both she and Toulouse flee the island when bloody revolution comes to its shores and they flee to New Orleans.


New Orleans 1795

Following a short stay in Cuba, Toulouse and Tete flee to the city of New Orleans  in the search of hope and a new future far away from the bloody battles of Haiti. Toulouse is keen to regain his wealth and position that he brutally left behind. But to reestablish himself is not an easy task.

“From the boat New Orleans looked like a waning moon, floating on the sea white and luminous. When I saw it I knew I would never return to Saint Domingue”

Tete is equally constrained by society if not more so due to her past as a slave.  but

“At that time there were many free people of colour in New Orleans for under the Spanish government it was difficult to buy freedom.”

As she has helped Toulouse to escape, so now they feel a connection of sorts but their future is far from certain in this distant land

The time, place and setting are evoked in the historical details and he smells and sounds of the landscape. A backdrop of rebellion and war enrich the mix of fact and fiction to epic levels which form a large and impressive picture of the slave trade, sugar industry, rebellion and more through the eyes of those who lived it.

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