The Sea On Our Skin

The Sea on Our Skin is a haunting first novel set in a tiny traditional island community, the story of a marriage and a family, of great loves and great betrayals.

Ioane Matete has been a traveller running away from his island since the age of fifteen, restless, dissatisfied, constantly exploring. Amalia Hoko grows up as an island child, loved and sheltered, accepting as a boundary and a limitation the sea that Ioane uses as his escape route. They belong to different worlds.

But when Ioane returns to the island as an adult to find a wife, Amalia is the wife he chooses, loves and maltreats, with long-reaching and disturbing consequences for the two of them and their children.

Cover for The Sea on our Skin


Amalia stepped out of the house as a bride and walked alone along the beach towards the man who would be her husband. Her lava-lava was battered by the wind, her hair flew in all directions around her face and she quickly became as wet as those who waited for her. She saw her mother standing at the back of the group and saw a man of about Temalisi’s age, at the front, next to Tom. He must be Ioane Matete.

‘I don’t remember what he looks like,’ she thought, but then comforted herself by noticing that with their faces screwed up against the wind, with their brightly coloured clothes – their sulus and lava-lavas – trying to fly away, with mud splashed all over their calves, everybody was almost unrecognisable. It seemed to her that the man she was going to marry was the only person who was smiling. ‘It’s a strange day,’ she thought, ‘we’re going to be unhappy.’


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

A quickly paced read, which drips with sumptuous imagery.

— Image


  1. Christina says:

    This book is my favourite out of all of the books I have read. I love how when I read it it transports me to the islands and it makes me feel apart of the story. Love it, hope you write more books just like this one. 

  2. Di says:

    I just want to say I really had a hard time putting down this book whenever I picked it up. The characters are all so alive and even though they may not always make the best decisions it feels like I’m watching actual people make them. My mum would actually watch me reading this just to see me flying into a rage whenever Ioane came back home or did something to hurt someone.

    I’ve woken up at least twice at 3 am wondering about the lives characters like Angel, Kara, and Amalia could’ve had if everything just turned out a little different, if everything found a way to work out, just a little bit. It’s just so good, despite being or maybe because of being a quick read. I’m still this emotional about it a month after reading it. I can’t wait for the release of That Beautiful Lie.

    • Madeleine says:

      Thanks so much for commenting Di – I’m so glad it affected you. It’s always great to hear that the book is out there with a life of its own!

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