Island Beneath the Sea: A Novel

Island Beneath the Sea: A Novel

4.0 240
by Isabel Allende

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“Allende is a master storyteller at the peak of her powers.”
Los Angeles Times

From the sugar plantations of Saint-Domingue to the lavish parlors of New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende (Inés of My Soul, The House of the Spirits,


“Allende is a master storyteller at the peak of her powers.”
Los Angeles Times

From the sugar plantations of Saint-Domingue to the lavish parlors of New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende (Inés of My Soul, The House of the Spirits, Portrait in Sepia) tells the story of a mulatta woman, a slave and concubine, determined to take control of her own destiny.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“[An] entertaining sweep...The canvas contains no less than the revolutionary history of the world’s first black republic...Allende revels in period details...Her cast is equally vibrant...”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Exuberant passions, strong heroines and intricate plots...a world as enchanted—and enchanting—as it is brutal and unjust... A page-turning drama.”
The Huffington Post
“Enthralling, blood-chilling, and heart-breaking…Island Beneath the Sea is a historical novel which works brilliantly in conveying the cyclone that was the eighteenth century.”
“…with gorgeous place descriptions, a keen eye for history and a predilection for high drama…There are few more charming storytellers in the world than Isabel Allende.”
Cathleen Medwick
“A lush epic of racism and rebellion which begins in Saint-Domingue (today’s Haiti)…In a culture of violence, Tété proves that ingenuity can be as heroic as love.”
Associated Press Staff
“Epic scope and sweep…[Allende’s] characters, linked by blood, love triangles and even incest, have a depth and complexity that…imbues the proceedings with a lushness bordering on magic realism.”
Corrie Pikul
“Two remarkable women whose destinies are entwined face the chaos of this time [eighteenth century Saint-Domingue]…Uncannily relevant.”
San Antonio Express-News
“A remarkable feat of prescience…Island Beneath the Sea is rich in drama, setting, themes, characters, dialogue and symbolism…an intriguing and wonderfully woven story.”
Donna Seaman
An entrancing and astute storyteller…In a many-faceted plot, Allende animates irresistible characters authentic in their emotional turmoil and pragmatic adaptability…while masterfully dramatizing the psychic wounds of slavery.”
Kirkus Reviews
Given recent events, the timing couldn't be better for this historical fiction from Allende (The Sum of Our Days, 2008, etc.), which follows a slave/concubine from Haiti during the slave uprisings to New Orleans in time for the Louisiana Purchase. In 1770, Toulouse Valmorain arrives in Haiti from France to take over his dying father's plantation. He buys the child Zarite to be his new Spanish wife Eugenia's maidservant and has her trained by the mulatto courtesan Violette Boisier, whose charisma could carry a book on its own. Barely into puberty, Zarite is raped by Valmorain, who gives the resulting son to Violette and her French army officer husband to raise as their own. Eugenia bears Valmorain one legitimate heir before she descends into madness. Zarite, who is devoted to pathetic Eugenia until her early death, lovingly raises baby Maurice and runs the household with great competence. She also submits to sexual relations with Valmorain whenever he wants. When Zarite's daughter is born, Valmorain assumes the child Rosette is his and allows her to remain in the household as Maurice's playmate. Actually Rosette's father is Gambo, a slave who has joined the rebels and become a lieutenant to the legendary Toussaint Louverture. When the rebels destroy Valmorain's plantation, Gambo and Zarite help him escape. In return Valmorain promises to free Zarite, who stays with him, she thinks temporarily, for the children's sake. Valmorain relocates to Louisiana, where Eugenia's brother has purchased him land. His new wife, jealous and vindictive Hortense, makes life unbearable for both Zarite and Maurice, who is sent to school in Boston. While Valmorain, less a villain than a man of his time, finally grants Zarite the freedom he's promised, more tragedies await strong-willed Rosette and sensitive, idealistic Maurice, whose love crosses more than racial boundaries. Still Zarite, along with the reader, finds solace in the cast of secondary characters, who also journey from Haiti to New Orleans. A rich gumbo of melodrama, romance and violence.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Isabel Allende is the author of twelve works of fiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Maya’s Notebook, Island Beneath the Sea, Inés of My Soul, Daughter of Fortune, and a novel that has become a world-renowned classic, The House of the Spirits. Born in Peru and raised in Chile, she lives in California.

Brief Biography

San Rafael, California
Date of Birth:
August 2, 1942
Place of Birth:
Lima, Peru

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Island Beneath the Sea 4 out of 5 based on 2 ratings. 240 reviews.
avidtexasreader More than 1 year ago
I've read several of Allende's books and liked them all, but this is one of her best, if not the best. I especially enjoyed the setting in the Carribean and Louisiana, and as always enjoyed getting to know the characters and sympathizing with them. Definitely recommend this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first novel I read from this author and I found it extremely entertaining. I often had to prevent myself from reading ahead so that I could get to the ending. All the characters were well thought of and developed. Each character had their own personality and were well thought of. The cultural surroundings not only had me feeling I was there, in the story, but the cultural and historical reference also gave each character its foundation and credibility. It is not too often that I find books that have me thinking about them after I have closed the book for the evening or leaving me satisfied with what I have read, wishing there had been much more. This was a love story, a coming of age story, historical story, a thriller and just down-right entertaining. I loved it. It is one that I will include in my library. This is one author that I will now be on the lookout for future releases.
RedMtReader More than 1 year ago
I have loved many of Isabel Allende's books, such as "Portrait in Sepia," so was anxious to read "Island Beneath the Sea." While I learned quite a bit about the sad and difficult history of Haiti, the story dragged in parts. The writing wasn't as crisp as in prior books and the characters weren't as compelling or interesting.
Le_Frou More than 1 year ago
I am a Creole from New Orleans, this book touches me. I love the characters and the way the story is written. I couldn't put it down. Grab a nice glass of wine and enjoy!
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
For fans of television's popular series Law & Order S. Epatha Merkerson is a familiar name. However, although her six year stay as Lt. Anita Van Buren on that program brought her many accolades, it is only a small part of her resume. Raised in Detroit, Michigan, Merkerson was a dance major at Wayne State University until a friend asked her to come to attend the friend's drama class. It was there that she discovered what she truly wanted to do. So, after graduation she headed for New York City to carve out a career as an actress. It was not too long before her gifts were recognized - she earned a Tony nomination for best actress for her role in The Piano Lesson as well as the Drama Desk Award and the Helen Hayes Award. Television and screen roles followed. Many of us recall not only Merkerson's first-rate performances but her voice - a tad husky yet clear, resonant. Listeners will thoroughly enjoy her reading of Isabel Allende's spellbinding ISLAND BENEATH THE SEA. Set in the French colony that will later become Haiti and using the revolt of 1804 plus several historical figures in her narrative the multi talented author relates the story of Zarite, called Tete. Her life is a mirror in which we see reflected the horrors of slavery, and the brutality of the lives endured by those who worked on the sugar cane plantations. Tete is the mulatto daughter of a mother she never knew and a white sailor. When Toulouse Valmorain arrives in 1770 he intends that his visit will be brief. However, he inherits his father's vast holdings - plantations and hundreds of slaves. He buys Tete as his wife's slave little knowing how their lives will intertwine. Days are perilous during the slave revolt and although Tete hates her master she has borne him two children, so she escapes with him to New Orleans to protect her offspring. It is there in an entirely different world that Tete attempts to create a life for herself. As is her wont Allende has created complex, fascinating characters, unforgettable people whose lives have been caught up in situations not of their own doing. Tete' is a remarkable figure, struggling against almost insurmountable mores and odds. - Gail Cooke
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1770, with his father dying, twenty years old Toulouse Valmorain leaves France to take over Saint Lazare, the family plantation in Haiti. Over the next few years, Toulouse works hard and makes his slaves toil harder. He marries, and for his wife Eugenia of Spain, Toulouse buys a mixed racial child slave Zarite of Saint-Domingue, whose white father sold her into bondage. Toulouse directs mulatto courtesan Violette Boisier to mentor the young slave. Zarite, known as Tete, lives in trepidation as abuse is her norm. She finds some escape in African drum music and voodoo loas. Meanwhile, Eugenia is going mad but gives birth to a son Maurice. Toulouse soon rapes Zarite, leaving her pregnant; once the child he assumes is his is born he gives the bastard to Violette and her military husband to raise the kid though he allows Rosette to be a companion to his Maurice. The French expatriate is unaware that another slave Gambo, who escaped to join the resistance, is Rosette's sire. Led by Toussaint Louverture, a slave revolt occurs across the island; leaving Valmorain's plantation among others ruined. Gambo and Zarite helps him flee to Louisiana where his brother-in-law has bought him land. He frees Zarite as he promised, but tragedy continues to haunt them and their offspring. This is an excellent timely historical tale that brings to life slavery in the Caribbean and the United States. Well written though no profound generalities are drawn, the story line enables the reader to better understand the motives of slaveholders in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Thus, the powerful characters, not just those prime players as included above, make Island Beneath the Sea a multi decade saga worth reading. Harriet Klausner
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mayrrz More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book, as I do all of the books she has written that I have read. I hope there will be more of her writing soon!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the story compelling but and the last two hundred pages I could not put the book down, bur I agree with another revised.  I wish there had been a bit more effort onto character development and the ending was a bit of a let down.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've ever read !
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What an amazingly written story. This book touched so many emotions for me. This is one of the best books I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I read it in Spanish and the language was beautiful and descriptive. So great.
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You will not regret this purchase. One of my all-time favorites by this author.