Isle of Passion: A Novel
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In 1908, under orders to defend a tiny, isolated Pacific atoll from an improbable French invasion, Mexican captain Ramón Arnaud, his young bride, Alicia, and eleven soldiers and their families set sail for the so-called Isle of Passion. In this dire, forbidding place, a viable community is created under Ramón's guidance and inspired by Alicia's dedication. But they are soon forgotten by a motherland distracted by political upheaval and the first rumblings of World War I. Left to the mercies of nature and one another—falling victim one by one to disease, hunger, lust, despair, and, ultimately, violence—the castaways who remain must find strength in the courage and steadfast resourcefulness of Alicia Arnaud, upon whom their collective survival now depends.
Based on true events, Laura Restrepo's Isle of Passion is a brilliantly rendered and dramatic tale of savage human nature—and one woman's determination to triumph over a harrowing fate.
camouflage their presence along its many bays. Nobody would find him there, nobody would even look for him there. So he established his shadowy domain and called it Clipperton Island. Not to give it his name, but to declare his act of possession. The island belonging to John Clipperton, buccaneer and rebel, solitary prowler with lots of raw courage, very few loves, and no faith. Perhaps he never learned that the place had already been named the Isle of Passion, or if he did, he probably thought
to shore one day, lost both his buttocks in one shark’s bite. “That was God’s punishment, taking away his sinful body part,” Doña Juana used to say, crossing herself. While they talked, they looked into the distance at the metallic gleams of the sharks’ backs, listened to the noise they made with their fins, cutting through the water like razor blades. The women believed they could detect fetid breath coming out of their jaws. At night they had nightmares of fangs and mutilations, of spooks
the old president, already in his eighties, decided on a grand celebration for the double occasion. The festivities were going to be the most lavish his poor country had ever seen. For a whole month there would be bread for everybody, and circus performances everywhere. She wrote that there were people who tried to oust him through uprisings and revolts, but that he would take charge and demonstrate to all that he was still holding the reins, and quite securely. That some people said he was old
he said. They said their good-byes. On deck Ramón met Jens Jensen, his wife, Mary, as evanescent as ever, and the rest of the Dutchmen. They embraced and wished one another good luck. Once in the rowboat on his way to the dock, Arnaud breathed deeply, relaxed on the seat with a brief smile, and thought: There is an invasion, a civil war, and a world war while I am here, wrapped in my own thoughts, worrying about whether booby eggs are better fried or scrambled. It was already 1555. Before 1655
instead go and bring the children down, before they fell off the cliff. Tirsa tied a rope around her waist to hold the mallet hidden in back while Alicia rinsed her legs in seawater and fixed her hair with her hand. They walked north as they discussed how best to approach him: together, alone, together, alone. Together. This continued until they saw him, about seventy feet ahead, sitting on the beach, with his reddish, corn-husk hair, his ashen skin, and his arthritic, bent legs. They slowed