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Island Beneath the Sea [Paperback]

Isabel Allende
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 Jun 2011

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 – now known as Haiti –Tété is the product of violent union between an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage.

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 bloody revolution arrives at the gates of Saint Lazare, they flee the island 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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Island Beneath the Sea + The House Of The Spirits
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (9 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007348657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007348657
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of nine novels, including Inès of My Soul, Daughter of Fortune, and Portrait in Sepia. She has also written a collection of stories, four memoirs, and a trilogy of children's novels. Her books have been translated into more than twenty-seven languages and have become bestsellers across four continents. In 2004 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Isabel Allende lives in California.

Product Description


'”Island Beneath the Sea” is a seductive, intoxicating saga. It starts with slavery, forbidden relationships and rebellion in Haiti, and expands to include struggles over secret children, racial castes and family heirs in Louisiana. Isabel Allende's latest novel is sweeping, provocative and impossible to put down' Lawrence Hill, author of ‘The Book of Negroes’

‘A complex and involving saga of human passions and cruelties’ TLS

'A magical storyteller' Daily Mail

'Allende's writing is so vivid we smell the countryside, hear the sounds, see the bright birds, smell and even taste the soft fruit' The Times

‘A truly wonderful piece of storytelling – a novel that pulls the reader into its rich, pungent world, and drives us along, dancing helplessly to the beat of the sorceress Allende’s drum’ Tablet

‘Allende is a brilliant storyteller … a rich and beautiful read’ The Stylist

‘Allende adroitly explores the role of the era's free people of color … Island Benath the Sea is a lush lesson of a moment and place all too relevant today.’ USA Today

About the Author

Isabel Allende was born in 1942, and is the niece of Salvador Allende, who went on to become famous as the elected President of Chile deposed in a CIA-backed coup. Her first novel for adults, ‘The House of the Spirits’, was published in Spanish in 1982, beginning life as a letter to her dying grandfather. It was an international sensation, and ever since her books have been acclaimed and adored in numberless translations worldwide.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
When I read a novel, I hope that I will be presented with a compelling story peopled by characters with whom I can relate, be they kind, virtuous, noble, loving, selfish, hateful, or vindictive. In that respect, "Island Beneath the Sea" won me over completely.

The story is centered around 3 families and spans the years 1770 to 1810. Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island of Saint Domingue in 1770, as a man aged 20, to assume ownership and responsibility for a plantation his family has established there (Saint-Lazare). He is a young man with egalitarian ideas, as well as an atheist. He mixes in as best he can with the stratified society that defines Saint Domingue, France's wealthiest colony, largely based on sugar and slave labor. "Toulouse Valmorain spent the first years lifting Saint-Lazare from devastation and was unable to travel outside the colony even once. He lost contact with his mother and sisters, except for sporadic, rather formal letters that reported only the banalities of everyday life and health. After his failure with two French managers, he hired a mulatto as head overseer of the plantation, a man named Prosper Cambray, and then found more time to read, to hunt, and travel to Le Cap. There he had met Violette Boisier, the most sought after cocotte of the city, a free young woman with the reputation of being clean and healthy, African by heritage, and white in appearance..."

Valmorain and Violette had a passionate relationship til he, on a visit to Cuba to visit his business associate, a Spaniard named Sancho Garcia del Solar, introduces him to his younger sister Eugenia, freshly arrived from a nunnery in Madrid. Valmorain and Eugenia marry and return to Saint Domingue.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Typical Allende ie Wonderful !! 20 Jun 2011
Yet another wonderful saga from Isabel Allende, though I often wonder how much credit should go to the translator of all her novels, Margaret Sayers Peden. Her thoughtfully descriptive prose and insightful imagery are both seductively woven into the driving narrative of Allende's works. 'Island Beneath the Sea' exemplifies the great strengths of both women in this novel of 18th century slave cruelty and revolution, while still capturing the essence of what makes us, longing, loss, liberation. Go treat yourself!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!! 6 July 2010
By Rosa
Fantastic book!
I read it in Spanish and couldn't put it down.
It could be your best companion when sitting by the pool with a nice glass of wine on your holidays.
Thoroughly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 3 Dec 2011
By Jones82
I love Allende! I have read all her books and this didn't disappoint... easy to read but not trashy. I have bought it for lots of my friends!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Such talent... 16 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
All her stories keep me in a state of amazement. The characters become my closest friends and their story and even their thoughts linger with me long after I have finished the book. There is no word, unfortunately, for her style of writing, it might be compared with Garcia Marquez but she is definitely unique!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Pepi
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Isabel's storytelling skills never cease to surpass my expectations. A beautiful story of hardship and perseverance; I was so engulfed in Zarite's life that the ending of the book made me cry. Absolutely beautiful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Island Beneath The Sea by Isabel Allende 27 April 2012
In the Island Beneath the Sea, Isabel Allende tells the tale of a family in a Haiti plantation. Ever the fantastic storyteller, she creates a colourful picture of what life was like for both slaves and their masters. Zarité, the main character, is subjected to routine, brutal beatings. The shocking nature of this is brought home to us all the more by the matter of fact way Isabel Allende describes it.

This novel marks a return to the quality seen in her earlier work from the 1980s and early 1990s.

Emily Grenfell
South Northamptonshire
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I loved Isabel Allende's early novels (up to and including The Infinite Plan and her heartbreaking memoir, Paula): she has a knack for creating wonderfully vivid, complex characters, wonderful stories teetering on the brink of magical realism but still believable, and brilliant settings. And in her early works she also had most original plots. In her more recent novels (largely historical novels with a strong romantic component), however, Allende has tended to resort to plots that make a good romantic adventure story but are rather low on subtlety, and on slightly cliched characters: the brave, devoted and poor young heroine, the reckless young lover, the bold courtesan, the villainous and lecherous older man, the overweight dowager figure. And 'Island Beneath the Sea' is no exception. Set in the Caribbean and later in Louisiana from the period just before the French Revolution until the 1820s, it is a rattling good adventure story, with plenty of sex and romance, but is packed with historical and romantic cliches.

Toulouse Valmorain, a poor Parisian aristocrat, comes to Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) to run a sugar plantation. He does well, makes his fortune, and also becomes a regular lover of Saint-Domingue's most beautiful courtesan, Violette Boisier, a clever woman of mixed race who has managed her business so that she can live in luxury. However, Toulouse realizes fairly soon that he must marry, and selects an elegant young Spanish woman, Eugenia Garcia, to be his wife. He hires Zarite (known as Tete), a young girl born into slavery, as Eugenia's maid. Tete is the leading character for much of the novel, some of which is narrated by her in the first person, some of which is told in the third person. Tete has a hard life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 1 month ago by Chas
5.0 out of 5 stars good
love Isabel Allende, if you love her as well you wont be disappointed, not her best but will do until we wait for the next one...
Published 3 months ago by monica
5.0 out of 5 stars What an amazing book!!
Oh my God...what can i write for this amazing book??...It broke my heart and at the same time it gave me hope..Allende creates a miracle with this book... Read more
Published 5 months ago by E.V.SKENTERI
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Loved this book... another great addition to Allende's already impressive collection! Thanks for continuing to deliver intriguing and heartfelt stories.
Published 10 months ago by Reader
2.0 out of 5 stars What a pity
I am usually full of praise for Isobel Allende and what I read of the book to page 60 promised to be absorbing. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Moon and stars
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read.
Historically traumatic and fascinating times. Strong characters in exotic locations. Allende populates her exiting saga with a well described and credible cast. Read more
Published 15 months ago by DamonOsborne
5.0 out of 5 stars A page turner
Wonderful story telling from Isabel Allende as always she never disappoints surprisingly your emotions change with each so sad characters
Published 17 months ago by Tina Foley
5.0 out of 5 stars She's done it again
This book reminded me a lot on The House of the Spirits, but I actually liked that about it. It's a different country, different historical moment and a different family clan, but... Read more
Published 19 months ago by L. Frank
4.0 out of 5 stars Just a ilittle long.
I really enjoyed the story, which is based around Haiti, when it was still a French colony. The story is well written and examine the relationship between slave and owner in a... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Fina
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