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Island Beneath the Sea: A Novel | [Isabel Allende]

Island Beneath the Sea: A Novel

Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarit - known as Tt - is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. Though her childhood is one of brutality and fear, Tt finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves.
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Publisher's Summary

Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarit - known as Tt - is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. Though her childhood is one of brutality and fear, Tt finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves.

When 20-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, its with powdered wigs in his baggage and dreams of financial success in his mind. But running his fathers plantation, Saint Lazare, is neither glamorous nor easy. It will be eight years before he brings home a bride - but marriage, too, proves more difficult than he imagined. And Valmorain remains dependent on the services of his teenaged slave.

Spanning four decades, Island Beneath the Sea is the moving story of the intertwined lives of Tt and Valmorain, and of one woman's determination to find love amid loss, to offer humanity though her own has been battered, and to forge her own identity in the cruellest of circumstances.

©2010 Isabel Allende (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers

What the Critics Say

"In a many-faceted plot, Allende animates irresistible characters authentic in their emotional turmoil and pragmatic adaptability. She also captures the racial, sexual, and entrepreneurial dynamics of each society in sensuous detail while masterfully dramatizing the psychic wounds of slavery. Sexually explicit, Allende is grace incarnate in her evocations of the spiritual energy that still sustains the beleaguered people of Haiti and New Orleans." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (599 )
5 star
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2 star
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Overall
4.1 (246 )
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Story
4.0 (247 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Madelaine CA, CA, USA 06-17-10
    Madelaine CA, CA, USA 06-17-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
    ratings
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    39
    4
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    "good story, ok narration"

    I couldn't stop listening. Ideal audiobook for me: good story, well written and not too heavy. Good to listen to while you're doing something else. The narration wasn't wonderful, any French names/words were butchered, but it didn't bother me too much.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stevon Tempe, AZ, United States 06-27-10
    Stevon Tempe, AZ, United States 06-27-10 Member Since 2005

    I love books!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    501
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    419
    282
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    Overall
    "excellent listen"

    When I decided on this book I wasn't really sure how I would enjoy the subject but it had good reviews and was on the NY Times bestseller list. But with a setting first in Haiti with the French in charge in the late 1700's, slavery, the slave rebellion, a move to New Orleans of both French and slaves along with excellent writing by the author I found I really did enjoy it. Both from an historical and human perspective, it was easy to keep listening and the book just rolled along.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michele Fresno, CA, United States 07-13-10
    Michele Fresno, CA, United States 07-13-10 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
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    31
    11
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    "Don't Overlook This Book"

    My favorite listen of the summer. It makes you start to understand why Haiti is the doormat of the world and hard to embrace...why they are what they are now in total impoverishment.

    I love historical novels as it is a great way to get the history down. And this book does not disappoint.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily Reinhold 09-12-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    60
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    104
    52
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    Overall
    "Good story but the narration was a bit off"

    Being a Spanish major who has studied abroad to Chile, I was introduced to Isabel Allende's work while in college. Of the books that I have read by her, The House of the Spirits and Mi Pais Inventado (My Invented Country), I have enjoyed how Allende ties in history with an intriguing story. I have to say that I did not quite enjoy this novel as much as the others. This could be because I am not as involved emotionally with the history of Hispanola and the slave revolt as I am with Chilean history. I did, however, gain an appreciation for what it would have been like for a slave or non-white during this time and how many attitudes in Haiti, Santo Domingo, and the United States have come to be. Also, I had difficulty getting through this book because the narrator that I listened to, while she was expertly able to pronounce all of the unusual names of people and places, was at times very dry and her inflection was a bit off. She spoke and enunciated each word slowly almost to the point where much of the emotion of the novel was lost. I would recommend this book to someone who has a love for history mixed with a good story but I would probably have enjoyed it more if I had read it as opposed to listen to it.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    New Orleans reader New Orleans LA 06-18-10
    New Orleans reader New Orleans LA 06-18-10 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    40
    ratings
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    33
    5
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    "Very Disappointing"

    I am a big fan of Allende's work and was looking forward to reading this for my book club, but I really didn't like this book. It was a chore to slog through to the end. The writing was boring and characters one dimensional, For awhile I thought the narrator was to blame. Although Ms. Merkerson is a fine actress capable of subtlety and emotional depth, her reading was unpolished and uninteresting. But In the end, I believe that the writing itself fell short. The historical events in Haiti and New Orleans details were redeeming aspects, but not enough to overcome the other faults with this book.

    19 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Mead, WA, USA 06-09-10
    Laura Mead, WA, USA 06-09-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
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    3
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    Overall
    "Thoroughly enjoyed it"

    This was an amazing story with fascinating history woven throughout. The storyline evokes anger and repulsion at the human condition, yet also joy and hope. I strongly recommend this for the historical fiction fan, and would also recommend first reading up on the era of the French Revolution and particularly France's interests in the Caribbean and New Orleans. It will make the historical storyline easier to follow. As for the narrator---perfect choice for this story.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gilbert San Antonio, TX, United States 09-03-10
    Gilbert San Antonio, TX, United States 09-03-10 Member Since 2006

    Sentient Being, Planet Earth

    HELPFUL VOTES
    32
    ratings
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    23
    15
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    1
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    Overall
    "Listening to poetry"

    As is typical for Ms. Allende's work, the book is excellently well written. Just listening to her construction of each and every sentence is quite worth the purchase of the book. I continue to be amazed at how well each and every sentence is written. Still, this particular story line seemed to be a chain of descriptions (albeit well done) which did not seem to go anywhere. I wished the ending would have had a bit more. Still, I would highly recommend this book, especially to anyone interested in the "art" of writing. Often, I felt like I was listening to poetry.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gene Oak Park, CA, United States 06-20-10
    Gene Oak Park, CA, United States 06-20-10 Member Since 2000

    Favorites: Invention of Wings, Cutting for Stone, All the Light We Cannot See

    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
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    23
    5
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    1
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    "I loved this book"

    I haven't read Allende for years, and I was totally enchanted by this book. The characters were beautifully portrayed. The book is an epic, following a number of generations and the history of Haiti which is itself fascinating.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 06-02-11
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 06-02-11 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    432
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    113
    86
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    56
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    Overall
    "Beautifully written - poorly narrated"

    This is the first - but not the last - book by Allende that I have read. What a writer! This is one of those books that come alive and I felt swept up in the drama. Along the way you learn a lot about Haiti - slavery - and the role the French played in the New World. At many points it is a very painful and sad story - but the main character - Zarit (Tt) captures your heart and gives you the hope and courage to continue listening. I highly recommend this book in spite of the narrator who does not seem to be a professional reader.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Telecommuter12 Englewood, CO 09-30-10
    Telecommuter12 Englewood, CO 09-30-10 Listener Since 2002

    TCK

    HELPFUL VOTES
    30
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    89
    6
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    Overall
    "Nice story- Horrible narration"

    Maybe I’m spoiled by some of the spectacular narrators I’ve enjoyed on Audible (i.e. John Lee, Simon Slater, Paul Michael among others) but the incredibly poor narration of this lovely book almost made me put it down before the story began. I’m glad I pushed thru, because the story and the historical backdrop ultimately were worth it. It’s not going to change your life- it’s pretty predictable, but for me a very enjoyable book while commuting.

    Hey Harper Audio- Here’s a thought if you’re looking for a narrator to read a book about French places, people, and culture it might be just lovely if you could find a narrator that has even the slightest grasp of the French language. To say that S. Epatha Merkerson butchered it is putting it mildly. Her reading is unsophisticated, unpolished and the constant mispronunciations of even English words was a true distraction. If you can get past that- and like historical novels- I think you’ll enjoy this book.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
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