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Island Beneath the Sea

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  37,374 ratings  ·  3,609 reviews

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 in the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves.

When twenty-y

Hardcover, 457 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Harper (first published August 25th 2009)
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Jeanine M Yes and no. Yes, because several of the main characters perservere in the face of horrible discrimination and deprivation. But, just like in real life…moreYes and no. Yes, because several of the main characters perservere in the face of horrible discrimination and deprivation. But, just like in real life, but more so because of the times and beliefs about class & race, we lose people due to extenuating circumstances that are out of one's control. (less)

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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  37,374 ratings  ·  3,609 reviews

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The Real Code Noir

My only direct knowledge of Haiti comes from my marginal involvement in the attempted Haitian coup of 1970 against ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier. The failed survivors took to sea in several small ships, ran out of fuel, and asked for humanitarian assistance from the Coast Guard. My ship was diverted from training in Guantanamo Bay and ordered to tow the rebel vessels to Roosevelt Roads, a naval base on Puerto Rico.

I, as an expendable junior officer, was assigned to take command of the l
Elyse  Walters
Apr 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is $1.99 kindle special again today
- I still own this book - loved it - packed filled with drama ...

I'm reading Isabel Allende's new book right now - "In The Mist of Winter", not released yet -- and it's TERRIFIC...
save your pennies for it! Or get your name on the waitlist at the library.

Older ... tiny comment:
I just bought this book yesterday. It looks fantastic! I LOVE Isabel Allende. I like her fiction and non-fiction books.

I'm also so excited....she will be speaking at a darling book
Cheryl James
Dec 31, 2019 is currently reading it
Shelves: favorites
I personally saved this book for my last review of 2019. I love the author and I totally loved this book. It took me two years to finish this book. Sometimes you read a book and then sometimes you read a story that is near and dear to your heart and this was the story for me. This story is about so much more than power and slavery. It's about the pain, sorrow, dedication and determination of a young black girl to a strong black woman. This book touched my heart and my soul. I didn't want it to e ...more
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
Take the rich historical settings of Haiti and New Orleans. Toss in voodoo ceremonies, zombies, bloody slave uprisings, forbidden loves, pirates, spies, fortune-tellers, hurricanes, epidemics, and a pinch of scandal. Place all of this is Isabel Allende's gifted hands, and what's not to love?

This book took some time and concentration to get through, but when I got to the end I found myself wanting more, more, more. I wanted to know what happens to Tete and Zacharie and Maurice and their families
Claire Grasse
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: practically no one
The flyleaf review on this book promised that it was written with all kinds of "native wit and brio." sic. Well, I fear this surfeit of wit and brio was somehow waylaid between press and the bookstand, because I'm halfway through, and now hoping I can find the grim stamina to just hang on and finish this book that somehow manages to feel damp and depressing, even in the cheeriest of chapters.

Allende uses language beautifully. She paints vivid word portraits of places and times I've never been t
Tynan Power
Jul 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary book about race, slavery, Haiti and New Orleans, as well as what it means to be family, by blood, by fate and by choice. It begins in 18th century Haiti (prior to when it was called Haiti) and ends in New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase. In the first part of the book, it chronicles the slave revolts that led to the creation of Haiti as the first independent black ("negro") nation. In the second part, it keeps Haiti in the background while following the main characters in New O ...more
Three & a half stars.

Isabel Allende is a passionate, confident storyteller. To read her sweeping historical fiction is to surrender to high drama and romance.

I first knew Allende as a writer of magical realism with works like Eva Luna and Of Love and Shadows, in which she intertwines contemporary political drama with strokes of the surreal and mystical. But her debut novel, The House of the Spirits, published in 1982 and the epics which followed, such as Daughter of Fortune, Portrait in Sepia,
An ambitious saga of personal lives and aspirations amid the violent transition of Haiti from a French colony founded on slavery into an independent republic at the turn of the 18th century. We are immersed in the story of the slave Zarité on a sugar plantation and how she learns to survive under its young aristocratic master Valmorain, who rapes her at 13 and fathers children by her. She eventually gains his respect and some independent agency as a caretaker of his white son. When the time of t ...more
Island Beneath the Sea was a very different book by one of my favorite Latin American writers, Isabelle Allende. This most powerful book took place in Santa-Domingue in the late eighteenth-century, later to be known as Haiti. There is a lot of history in this sprawling novel that we should embrace. This beautiful epic book spanned four generations from 1770 when young twenty-year old Toulouse Valmorain went to run his father's sugar plantation, Saint-Lazare. What unfolds is an epic historical fi ...more
Apr 27, 2010 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Kim by: npr.org
Thursday evening, May 6th, I had the good fortune to attend a talk and reading by the most famous living Latin American author. Isabel Allende read from her new novel Island Beneath the Sea at the Atlanta History Center to an auditorium full of fans. She was a delight!!

It had been years since someone had read to me and I had quite forgotten what a pleasure that can be. Author Allende reading her new book in her wonderful Latin American accent made for one of the most pleasurable evenings out I h
"Islands Beneath the Sea" refers to where people go when they die. I guess it's some kind of folklore, the origins of which are unclear from the book. I don't have anything really deep and meaningful to say about this book. I thought it was in effect an overly emotional soap opera about cartoonishly evil and inept villain Toulouse Valmorain and the chronically persecuted Zarete (Tete). All of this against the backdrop of the very brutal slavery conditions in Saint-Domingue aka Haiti and the peri ...more
Kellie Lambert
Oct 31, 2012 rated it liked it
I thought I would never finish this...like a split personality friend, the first 250 pages were a drag and the last 250 were epic!

This is a big feat, my friends, to have finished this book. I'm serious. Somebody throw me a party, because for a 500 page book (which is usually no big deal), this one felt like Moby Dick, minus the whale. It was that slow. I almost gave up on it, but kept returning to it because I had spent $10 on the e-book and it was recommended to me, so there's that.

But hey, I
Viv JM
3.5 stars, rounded up

Island Beneath the Sea is an epic historical saga, following the lives of slave Tété and her master Valmorain. The story begins on the island of Saint Domingue (modern day Haiti) and follows the pair through a slave uprising and onwards to exile in New Orleans. Allende’s storytelling is wonderful and she really transports the reader to the geographical and historical setting. I enjoyed the first part of the book, set in Haiti, more than the second part set in New Orleans, wh
I am absolutely in love with Isabel Allende's writing. When I read "The House of Spirits" I was captivated with how she is able to captivate her readers. She continues her magical writing with "Island Beneath The Sea".

In Island Beneath The Sea we are taken to 1770 on the island of Saint Domingue (Haiti) where we meet Zarite, who is a slave on the island. We also meet French, Toulouse Valmorain who arrives on the island to run his father's plantation. Of course, Toulouse Valmorain, new to the
Missy J
This book is captivating. For me, it was truly plunging into a pool and arriving in 18th century Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) in just one page! That's how good the writing was! This is the first book I read by Isabel Allende. In the beginning, I was intimidated. However, this book is very easy to follow. What I loved most was the first part of the book, because it is set in Saint-Domingue during the years 1770-95. And let me tell you, Allende did her research well on the Haitian Revolution. She en ...more
Joy D
Historical fiction covering the years 1770-1810 set first in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) then in New Orleans, Island Beneath the Sea is an ambitious sweeping epic of the slave rebellion that resulted in Haitian independence, and the emigration of displaced people to multi-cultural New Orleans at the time of the Louisiana Purchase. Allende examines the horrors of slavery, the blending of different cultures in the wake of the mass emigration, and the strong bonds that form betw ...more
Book Concierge
Audiobook performed by S. Epatha Merkerson.

In a bit of a departure from her usual emphasis on Hispano-American history, Allende gives us a story of an 18th-century slave in French-occupied Saint-Domingue (later to become Haiti). We follow Zarité from her childhood through age forty, from Guinea to Saint-Domingue to Cuba and on to New Orleans.

Allende populates the novel with a wide variety of characters: Zarité’s French master and plantation owner Toulouse Valmorain; the free quadroon Violette B
Tom LA
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I have to say I listened to the audiobook in Italian, read by an Italian actress who unfortunately did a terrible job. She read the whole thing with a tone of amused delight, which is the farthest she could possibly go from the horrific ugliness described in this book. So, please bear with me.

It's not that I didn't like the story. It's the combination writer / reader that I really, really hated.

As for the book itself, I am fascinated by the history of Haiti, but Allende's charact
Clif Hostetler
This book contains two major themes. First, it is a historical novel describing the Haitian slave rebellion (1791–1804) and New Orleans' Creole society and culture of the same era. Second, the book provides a clever fictional plot that shows the ironic difficulties that can arise in a strictly racially segregated slave holding society where there's an in between mulatto class who are blood relatives to both black and whites, and everybody pretends the relationships don't exist.

I enjoyed the stor
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 30, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: set-aside
It's pretty unusual for me to give up on a book, but I'm setting this one aside. I don't exactly have a choice, since it's a library book that can't be renewed because other people are waiting for it. The three weeks I've had the book would have been more than enough time to finish it, though, if it had only captured my imagination. The characters are two dimensional at best, and Allende spends so much time on exposition that 80 pages into the book, almost nothing has happened. There have, howev ...more
Andy Miller
Sep 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
This novel follows the lives of two characters; Toulouse Valmorian, a French aristocrat who moves to Haiti in the late 1700s to run a plantation and Tete, a young slave he purchases to care for his new bride.

Allende paints a compelling view of slavery in Haiti and shows how it corrupts the souls of the slaveowners and contrasts that with the dignity that many slaves retain despite the brutality inflicted upon them.
Allende also focuses on the children who are born from the rape of slaves by thei
Sakinah Al Taleb
This book took me by surprise. It talked about slavery mainly in the 18th century, and how Haiti became the first independent republic for black people after the rebellion of slaves.

What I liked most is Zeraté's voice. She makes you live the heartbreaking torture that the slaves endured and the unspeakable condition they were facing in Sugar cane plantation business in addition to her heart wrenching story and how she gained her freedom.


Overall, the book was really good and enjoyable

The end
This book gave an in-depth look at what it meant to fight for your right to be a person and a woman during Haitian & American Slavery. If you love an epic drama or a book about characters with loose morals, look no further!

You can watch my full review here: #WOCBC| Island Beneath the Sea
Judith E
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An insightful story about Haiti, New Orleans, slavery and surviving hardship. A stark reminder that slavery was an accepted business practice causing inexplicable behaviors. Well written (as always by Allende), exposing slave life, maternal love, and hope, through the main character, TeTe. A very good book.
Warren Fournier
Aug 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was originally drawn to this title because of my own family's Haitian history, and was curious as to Chilean author Isabel Allende's take on the historical events that led my lineage across the sea to New Orleans for an American rebirth. Zarité, nicknamed Tété, is the main character of this splendid novel, and she takes the very same journey as my ancestors during the very same period in history. This is her tale of that journey over several decades.

Starting off as a young girl and a slave who
Linda Abhors the New GR Design
This is one of those books that make me wish for a "0" rating, so that I can count it on my list of books read, but tell ya how I really feel about it.
My updates pretty much say it all-there are some things that are shockingly out of place here (did you know monkeys and wolves were indigenous to Haiti? I sure as hell didn't.), and what is (mostly) historically accurate is very obviously researched, cut and pasted practically.

Know what? Daremblum says it so much more beautifully than I, so here'
Althea Ann
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
For a great portion of this book, I kept trying to figure out why the characters seemed so very, very familiar... almost as if I'd read the book before, years ago. But it was only published two years ago, and my memory isn't quite that bad! I even looked on the internet to try to find out if any excerpts had been previously published, or any short stories featuring the same characters... no.
Just as I sat down to write this review, I remembered: I went to see Allende at a live appearance, I
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende is a beautiful wonderfully written story bout a slave woman Zarete (Tete) as she grows up under brutal slavery conditions in Saint-Domingue aka Haiti it’s a long book and I struggled with the numerous French names but such a small sacrifice for such a great book I learned so much always been interested in the early history of Haiti having known the basics of how this french colony became the only successful slave revolt, later the story moves on to Cuba a ...more
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Isabel Allende Llona is a Chilean-American novelist. Allende, who writes in the "magic realism" tradition, is considered one of the first successful women novelists in Latin America. She has written novels based in part on her own experiences, often focusing on the experiences of women, weaving myth and realism together. She has lectured and done extensive book tours and has taught literature at s ...more

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