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The Sea on Our Skin [Paperback]

Madeleine Tobert
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 7.85 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

17 Jan 2013

Set in a tiny, traditional community on a Pacific island, this is the story of a marriage and a family, of great loves and great betrayals and how real island life is so much more than the blissful idyll Westerners see. Ioane Matate has been a traveller running away from his island since he was fifteen, restless, dissatisfied and troubled. Amalia Hoko has grown up an island child, loved and sheltered, accepting as a boundary and limitation the sea that Ioane uses as his escape route. They belong to different worlds, but when Ioane returns to the island, Amalia is the wife he chooses, loves and maltreats, with far-reaching and disturbing consequences for both them and their children.

The Sea on Our Skin transports the reader to the South Pacific with an immediacy that makes the island almost tangible. This is a beguiling and lyrical story, taking its rhythms from the oral storytelling tradition of island life and the myths of the South Seas and blending them with the age-old stories of mothers and children and characters whose joy and suffering linger hauntingly in the mind of the reader.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Two Roads (17 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444734121
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444734126
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 281,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A quickly paced read, which drips with sumptuous imagery.' (Image)

'First-time novelist Madeleine Tobert has written a totally convincing fiction about a small island community, somewhere in the Pacific, still untainted by Western ways.' (The Age)

'Written with a graceful simplicity . . . a straightforward, fable-like tale' (Scotland on Sunday)

'Written with warmth and humour and has plenty of unexpected turns.' (Bay of Plenty Times)

'[Tobert's] creative skills and care with her writing shine through in this impressive first novel.' (Hawkes Bay Weekend)

'Extraordinary and absorbing . . . recommended for a read you will find both lyrical and memorable.' (Southland Times)

'An intergenerational narrative of stunning lyrical quality.' (Listener NZ)

Book Description

A lyrical novel of mothers and sons, love, family and the far-reaching consequences of betrayal, set on a small Pacific island.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real page turner! 11 Feb 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was really impressed when I realised that it was the author's first novel. The beautifully vivid descriptions of the island and village transported me back to the pacific, where I was earlier this year. At times, I could almost smell the sea or taste the food depicted.

Despite the sad undertones present, the book is not without a sense of hope or indeed a sense of humour. The simple and honest way in which the author describes the characters and their interactions, with each other and their environment, allows the reader to ponder the intricacies of human emotions. While many of the themes portrayed in the book can be considered universally applicable (family discord, secrets etc), others are more specific to the Pacific setting and culture. It is the interplay between the two; mirrored as it is in the opening up of the Village to the rest of the Island that really struck a cord with me. Tobert does not shy away from the grittier elements of human nature either, which strikes me as brave.

Overall, I thought that this was a really readable book. I didn't put it down until I'd finished it; swept along as much by the elements of magical realism and intrigue as the story itself. I picked this book up as it was about the Pacific and I had recently travelled there but I will definitely be looking out for more works by this author in the future!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and Dark Love Story 31 Jan 2012
This is a compelling, emotionally powerful read, and a mature piece of writing for a first novel. The author manages to convey these tales of remote island life (and their occasional encouters with the outside world) with conviction and simplicity. She never falls into the trap of being patronising or clichéd about the islanders either, so it's very easy to identify with all of the novel's characters at some point (even the terriying patriarch Ioane Matete, who ultimately became my favourite character).

Although some people might be inclined to dissmiss this book as a 'holiday read' I think that would be a mistake. The island setting is beautifully rendered, but it belies the dark undercurrents which lie just beneath the story's surface. Ever present, they continually threaten to drag under one or other of the novel's best-loved, and least deserving, characters.

There is, of course, a love story at the centre, but it's not at all obvious, and ultimately very affecting. The author carefully balances it with darker, more macabre themes. Fate and the generational effects of domestic violence follow these characters fom start to finish.

When I consider this is a first novel from an unkown writer, I'm really impressed and thrilled that I stumbled upon this author so early in her career.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lost on an island 22 Jun 2012
By Andrew Foulds VINE VOICE
Wonderful escapist literature that either drives you insane or tears at your heart luckily I fall into the latter category! Not perfect but worth reading
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal holiday read 29 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Quite a surprise for a first novel, this was an absorbing book that really caught the attention such that you felt loathed to put it down.

Set in a beautiful location with a very readable mix of romance and intrigue, this made an ideal holiday read. Not too long but with fully formed characters, you can lose yourself quite easily for some hours.

Enjoyed by my wife , she is looking forward to a sequel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short, beautiful and delicate 14 April 2012
By zombielover TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The title of this review says it all about how this book reads.

It is a short novel, delicately composed to suit its often sorrowful story, but so vivid and beautiful to read. Tobert has done an excellent job at characterisation and location-building. It is a fantastic effort for a first novel.

The balance between light and dark, with the exotic island themes and its more morose and stormy undercurrents, whilst carrying along what is essentially a love story, is fantastic. Buy this. Now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable 11 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was attracted to this book by the fact that it was set in a the South Pacific. I wanted to be transported to an idylic island in the sun, feel the breeze on my face, smell the sea air and hear the waves. What I got wasn't quite what I was expecting.

This is a story of Island life in the raw. There are dark moments and stark realities with domestic violence leaving you very uncomfortable as a reader. That said - it was well written and descriptives so strong you felt you had actually visited the location yourself.

There are two characters with totally differing views on Island life,one happy to stay and one desperate to leave. I did find I didnt want to put it down in some parts and as its not too long it would make a good holiday read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great little book 5 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A great book that I found it hard to put down once I started. Beautifully written and drawing you into this wonderful Island life. I found that I had to keep reading until the end once I got going. Read it today
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful visit to the Pacific 28 Mar 2012
By Mark Shackelford TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As a first novel this is really very good. A well written story of love and life in the Pacific. Although written in a simple style - the story grabs you and it is hard to put down.

It is a sort of holiday read - but a bit more than that, with a certain darkness to the story.

We meet a wide range of good, bad and ugly characters as they live out their lives on a tropical island.

Lovely descriptions, an intriguing story, a bit of magic - recommended!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome!
A wonderful story which beautifully describes the island's characters' connection with the sea. I thoroughly recommend that you read it.
Published 8 months ago by kiwi
4.0 out of 5 stars The sea on our skin
Remarkably well written, and if you tend to gravitate towards sadness in a narrative, then like me, you will probably enjoy this book. Read more
Published 14 months ago by -EFox-
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book, wonderful cover
I LOVE this book. It explores Island life and the role of the sea in the Pacific. It is wonderfully written and I thoroughly enjoyed it and lent it to a friend of mine who is a... Read more
Published 17 months ago by F Carson
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I don't usually go for books like this: romance type stuff. I'm not sure what attracted me to this book either, but I'm glad I gave it a go. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Mr. K. Cross
5.0 out of 5 stars An island story as powerful as the storms that shape it
For me The Sun on Our Skin was both a gripping adventure story that turned the pages with as much ease as I can remember and a surprisingly engaging perspective on what happens to... Read more
Published 21 months ago by B. G. Keene
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Read!!!
The writing and style really bring the island and the sheltered world to life, especially the sea. A beautiful story told really well and most of the, very different, characters... Read more
Published 22 months ago by S. Fernandes
3.0 out of 5 stars The dark side of sunny Pacific island life
Life on a remote island in the Pacific is strangely timeless - cut off from the mainland, the villagers live a traditional existence, happily trapped. Read more
Published on 7 May 2012 by Gabrielle O
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing
I'm in the minority with my thoughts on this book. Sadly, it just didn't captivate me in the way I'd hoped. Read more
Published on 9 April 2012 by kehs
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