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.
©2010 HarperCollins Publishers (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers
"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)
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.
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.
Allende' s book is very informative about the slave revolution in Haiti. The character's of the book are well pictured. I was so absorbed in Tete and other characters lifes that I couldn't wait to go back listening to the story. I managed to finish this audiobook in 3 days.I only didn't like the end of the story as for my taste the cause of incest is dealt in a too lighthearted way. I however still would recommend this audiobook.
In contrast to other reviewers I enjoyed the narration of Epatha Merkerson.
This book was riveting from the start you could smell, taste feel so vibrant were the descriptions. The history combined with characters enraptures the reader not only the impatience of wanting to know what happens next and to whom, but with the statement 'chapter....' is a sense of full blown relief for the reader. Knowing that the story is still unfolding akin to a fine wine or meal it is truly disappointing to reach the end but the characters stay strongly in the mind. Some may feel it's rather lengthy but I totally loved it!!!
Brilliant narrator, expert story weaving the best book I have listened to so far.
"Great historical fiction"
This is the story of a slave from San Domingue, now known as Haiti. Tete's story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. she has known the terrible life of a slave but also the love if family and friends. i found the historical evolution of the slave situation and rebellion on the island fascinating as well as the life journey of all the people in Tete's life, including her slave master. This is a great family saga for lover's of historical fiction set in the Caribbean and Southern USA.
"Allende visits the Caribbean music to your ears"
Probably not I rarely read books twice.
She did a fabulous job to bring Allende's characters to life I hope to hear her again.
Why aren't there more Allende books available on Audible? Also loved the Latin accent of the narrator so suited the book.
"Captures at once"
The story is quite different from those books I've read. Though it is interesting and captive. I enjoyed it a lot.
The narrator was ok, however sometimes it was difficult to understand where the chapter ends because of the intonation.
The reader of this novel was an inappropriate choice - her pronunciation of the French which fills this novel, was atrocious and her tone of voice was usually, either depressingly soppy, or annoyingly monotonous. If you could give a minus result for performance I would. I found it very difficult to forget the reader and lose myself in the story. It was only the power of Allende's writing which stopped me consigning this to the bin.
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