Island Beneath the Sea

  • by Isabel Allende
  • Narrated by S. Epatha Merkerson
  • 18 hrs and 1 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the sugar plantations of Saint-Domingue to the lavish parlors of New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century, Isabel Allende's latest novel tells the story of a mulatta woman, a slave and concubine, determined to take control of her own destiny in a society where that would seem impossible.
Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarité - known as Tété - 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, Tété finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves.
When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, it's with powdered wigs in his trunks and dreams of financial success in his mind. But running his father's plantation, Saint Lazare, is neither glamorous nor easy.
Against the merciless backdrop of sugar cane fields, the lives of Tété and Valmorain grow ever more intertwined. When the bloody revolution of Toussaint Louverture arrives at the gates of Saint Lazare, they flee the island that will become Haiti for the decadence and opportunity of New Orleans. There, Tété finally forges a new life - but her connection to Valmorain is deeper than anyone knows and not so easily severed.
Spanning four decades, Island Beneath the Sea is the moving story of one woman's determination to find love amid loss, to offer humanity though her own has been so battered, and to forge her own identity in the cruellest of circumstances.

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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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great book, shame about the narrator

I love Isabel Allende's novels and was really looking forward to listening to this one. The plot, characters and atmosphere do not disappoint. You are embroiled in a world of slaves, plantation owners and political change that is typical of the complex backgrounds Allende is so good at creating.
However... although the narrator's voice is of a rich and pleasant timbre, her disjointed monotone makes the book much more difficult to follow than it should be and lacks emphasis where emphasis should be given. Dialogue is especially confusing. Her pronunciation of the many French words and names in the story is painful and detracts from what should be a pleasurable listen.
Read it rather than listen to it is my advice.
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- Alex

A book to touch your heart

I will admit to being prejudiced because Isabel Allende is among my favourite authors but this is one of the best audio books I have heard for some time. Although not in the same class as 'The House of the Spirits', 'Island Beneath the Sea' is the story of the Haitian slave, T?t?, her struggle to become free and a large cast of characters who impact on her life.

Although this is a book that reveals the horrors of slavery both in Haiti and in America, it is told with Allende's typical honesty and fairness that favours shades of grey rather than black and white when portraying her characters. Thus, with one or two exceptions, we are allowed to see three dimensional characters who are as much the products of their time as driven by sheer greed and cruelty. For instance, although I did not like Toulouse Valmorain, I was able to understand what drove him and did feel sympathy for him at the end. The book is challenging sometimes and I really had to struggle with my own prejudices and feelings over the story of Maurice and Rosette, which I didn't really find very convincing, but overall it is a book about the triumph of the human spirit and it is a rewarding read.

I wasn't particularly keen on the narrator, whose voice was too monotone for my taste, but I would still recommend this audio book.
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- Sandra

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-05-2010
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Limited