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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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Stevon
  • Tempe, AZ, United States
  • 06-27-10

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.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Michele
  • Fresno, CA, United States
  • 07-13-10

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.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • 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

  • Overall

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

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Diane
  • Kernville, CA, United States
  • 08-17-12

Loved the reader

Any additional comments?

Story is soapy but captivating. Unlike the other reviewers, I loved the reader -- found her delivery subtle and understated -- a really good balance since the events were so packed with brutality and emotion. I will look for other books she's narrated.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Gilbert
  • San Antonio, TX, United States
  • 09-03-10

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

  • Overall
  • Laura
  • Mead, WA, USA
  • 06-09-10

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.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Could not put it down

This is a must read for Isabel Allende fans. Strong female protagonists as we have grown to love an expect from Isabel Allende.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dr.
  • Lake Oswego, OR, United States
  • 06-02-11

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