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Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781501154850 Set on the Korean island of Jeju, The Island of Sea Women follows Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls from very different backgrounds, as they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective. Over many decades—through the Japanese colonialism of the 1930s and 1940s, World War II, the Korean War, and the er Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781501154850 Set on the Korean island of Jeju, The Island of Sea Women follows Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls from very different backgrounds, as they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective. Over many decades—through the Japanese colonialism of the 1930s and 1940s, World War II, the Korean War, and the era of cellphones and wet suits for the women divers—Mi-ja and Young-sook develop the closest of bonds. Nevertheless, their differences are impossible to ignore: Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, forever marking her, and Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers. After hundreds of dives and years of friendship, forces outside their control will push their relationship to the breaking point. This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a unique and unforgettable culture, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.


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Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781501154850 Set on the Korean island of Jeju, The Island of Sea Women follows Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls from very different backgrounds, as they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective. Over many decades—through the Japanese colonialism of the 1930s and 1940s, World War II, the Korean War, and the er Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781501154850 Set on the Korean island of Jeju, The Island of Sea Women follows Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls from very different backgrounds, as they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective. Over many decades—through the Japanese colonialism of the 1930s and 1940s, World War II, the Korean War, and the era of cellphones and wet suits for the women divers—Mi-ja and Young-sook develop the closest of bonds. Nevertheless, their differences are impossible to ignore: Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, forever marking her, and Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers. After hundreds of dives and years of friendship, forces outside their control will push their relationship to the breaking point. This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a unique and unforgettable culture, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

30 review for The Island of Sea Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jaline

    Update: Happy Publication Day! (Today, March 5th, 2019) Haenyeo is the Korean name for the sea women who, through careful husbandry, harvest the sea through various seasons of production and restoration. On Jeju Island, south of mainland Korea, they called themselves jamsu, jamnyeo, or jomnyeo, which are all Jeju words. The haenyeo culture is characterized as matrifocal; that is, focused on females. They did all the difficult and dangerous work in their families and had to be in top physical form Update: Happy Publication Day! (Today, March 5th, 2019) Haenyeo is the Korean name for the sea women who, through careful husbandry, harvest the sea through various seasons of production and restoration. On Jeju Island, south of mainland Korea, they called themselves jamsu, jamnyeo, or jomnyeo, which are all Jeju words. The haenyeo culture is characterized as matrifocal; that is, focused on females. They did all the difficult and dangerous work in their families and had to be in top physical form to do so, beginning their training when young: to hold their breath, develop strong, supple muscles, and expand their instincts for danger and for spotting their underwater harvests. I know from reading the author’s note how much research was involved in this story. Before I even read how this book came about, the feeling I had was of Lisa See doing her always-exceptional historical and current research, and visiting the places she wrote about in person, but also listening to the stories of various people who remembered the period of time covered in this novel. Then, taking all of the history and the stories and stirring them with her imagination, Lisa See wove this fascinating, tragic, and utterly absorbing story. And on the tides of trust in this author, and with a few deep breaths, I dove into this story, and I dove deep. We are drawn into the story of Mi-ja and Young-sook who first met when they were seven years old and grew to be heart friends, sharing their deepest held secrets, their love of diving, and many adventures, including going to Russia as teenagers to dive in freezing cold waters for extra money to bring home for their families. When they are 21, a rift occurs and although they continue to be buoyed by their loving bond, the seeds of suspicion and distrust are planted. Through the eyes, hearts, and experiences of two young girls who mature and grow into women with their own families, we are transported seamlessly between the past when they were younger, through and into a time 70 years onward. The culture and history of Jeju Island is both tragic and triumphant. Tragic, because there was always some government somewhere wanting to take control of the Island due to its strategic military location. Decades of living in fear, of poverty, restrictions, and wars would surely wear down any group of people. Triumphant because, like the inspiring haenyeo with their amazing abilities, again and again these Island people propelled themselves from the depths and to the surface. I loved everything about this novel: the story, the characters, the setting, and the many, many things I learned. There are heart-rending and catastrophic events in this story, and there were several times when I had to pause in my reading to absorb the shock of what these characters that I grew to love went through. At the same time, it is a testament and tribute to the resilience of the human spirit that will stay within my heart for always. With gratitude to Simon and Schuster Canada, Scribner and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review an ARC of this novel, and to the author, Lisa See: the only author who could have written this story. Its publication date is March 05, 2019.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    I first learned about the Korean island of Jeju and the Haenyeo, the female divers, the fisher women who were the major providers of food and income for their families, when I read White Chrysanthemum. It was a story of the Japanese occupation of Korea and the horrors of young women being taken by the Japanese to be a “comfort workers” and a young haenyeo is taken. See’s novel focuses specifically on the lives of the Haenyeo spanning decades and is a much more in depth look. She gives wonderful I first learned about the Korean island of Jeju and the Haenyeo, the female divers, the fisher women who were the major providers of food and income for their families, when I read White Chrysanthemum. It was a story of the Japanese occupation of Korea and the horrors of young women being taken by the Japanese to be a “comfort workers” and a young haenyeo is taken. See’s novel focuses specifically on the lives of the Haenyeo spanning decades and is a much more in depth look. She gives wonderful descriptions, at times a lot of detail, about the culture of the collective of women, the rituals and rules, spoken and unspoken, how they dive with no equipment and harvest food from the sea. There are several layers to this story, though. It’s a story of a friendship that becomes fractured, of grief, of a culture, the broader story of a country’s history told through the lives of two women. I was interested early on when we meet Young-sook, near eighty perhaps, as we discover that there has been a rift between her and her best friend Mi-ja for many years. I was interested in knowing what caused it. The story unfolds, moving through time telling of the bond they formed as children, as haenyeoIt tells of events in their lives, both happy and heartbreaking as they grow up during the Japanese occupation, through their childhood, their marriages, their children. Initially, it lacked an emotional connection for me, but further on in the story, I felt for these women and their deep sadness and loss portrayed here. There is one brutal scene in particular that is just gut wrenching. I really didn’t know much about the history of Korea leading up to North and South Korea . I didn’t know what the Bukchon massacre was or the strategic importance of Jeju, or the political significance that resulted in some horrific things that happened here. The strength of the book for me was the depiction of this history, learning things I never knew of, about a culture and a country I didn’t know a lot about. I found it to be a very worth while read, as I have found with all of the books by Lisa See that I have read. This was a regular monthly read with Diane and Esil. Thanks as always for reading with me. I received an advanced copy of this book from Scribner through both Edelweiss and NetGalley.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    5 stars This is a story of pain , sorrow, anger, anger and grief all rolled into one. This is historical fiction, set on the island of Jeju, South Korea. It centers on the relationship between two women, Mi-ja and Young-sook, from the 1930s to 2008. They are best friends growing up in a Korea run by the Japanese, who made a colony of Korea in 1910. *SPOILER alert: They remain friends until one day in January 1949, when their friendship is destroyed. Young-sook's husband, son and sister-in-law are 5 stars This is a story of pain , sorrow, anger, anger and grief all rolled into one. This is historical fiction, set on the island of Jeju, South Korea. It centers on the relationship between two women, Mi-ja and Young-sook, from the 1930s to 2008. They are best friends growing up in a Korea run by the Japanese, who made a colony of Korea in 1910. *SPOILER alert: They remain friends until one day in January 1949, when their friendship is destroyed. Young-sook's husband, son and sister-in-law are killed by South Korean soldiers. END alert. I was aware that the US installed a dictator, Rhee Syngman(Korean--US is Syngman Rhee), who was a staunch anti-communist, in S. Korea. I was not aware that his police and army had a large number of Japanese collaborators. His regime ruthlessly suppressed opponents who protested, asking for democratic elections, killing thousands on Jeju alone. This book also has a large amount of information of the women on Jeju, who do the fishing, while their husbands stay home taking care of the children. This practice goes back hundreds of years to a time when men who fished were heavily taxed by Korean kings, while women paid no taxes. Some quotes: "Jeju is her home, an island known for Three Abundances: wind, stones and women." "Her house is a nest where she hides the joy, laughter, sorrows and regrets of her life." After giving birth: "The four of us were back on the boat within days. The babies lay side by side in their cradles., linked with all the cradles." "My solace came from knowing I was not alone in my misery. So many men had been killed in Bukchon that it was now called the Village of Widows." I strongly recommend this book to all historical fiction and Lisa See fans. Update March 3, 2019. My wife just finished reading this book, 1/3 rd of the way in she was hoping that a certain man would die.. He was a wife beater. Thank You Simon and Schuster for sending me this eARC through NetGalley.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Update: $2.99 kindle special. The history of these women - is fascinating! A great price - worth reading!! 🤿🐟 “As the Korean saying goes, *Haenyos* do the work of the dead in the land of the living”. “Every woman who enters the sea carries a coffin on her back. In this world, the undersea world, we tow the burdens of a hard life”. Women harvest together, sort together, and sell together. The sea itself is communal. With no breathing equipment, the deep-sea diving Korean women (*Haenyos*), hold th Update: $2.99 kindle special. The history of these women - is fascinating! A great price - worth reading!! 🤿🐟 “As the Korean saying goes, *Haenyos* do the work of the dead in the land of the living”. “Every woman who enters the sea carries a coffin on her back. In this world, the undersea world, we tow the burdens of a hard life”. Women harvest together, sort together, and sell together. The sea itself is communal. With no breathing equipment, the deep-sea diving Korean women (*Haenyos*), hold their breath for two minutes, diving 65 feet deep to harvest seafood: abalone, shellfish, sea urchins, octopus, conches, sea slugs, sea cucumbers, oysters, and squid. Years ago, Haenyos officially retired at age 55. Today, it’s hard to find Haenyos under the age off 55. In recent years, their numbers are decreasing dramatically. It’s estimated that the haenyo will be gone in twenty years unless more women step forward. Diving as these women do can be very dangerous. Strokes are common with years of diving. Dr Shin, ( a minor character), says: “You Haenyo learn from your mothers and grandmothers, but what they taught you is the worst thing you can do. All those short breaths, followed by a deep dive, where you hold your breath the entire time, and then the quick rise to the surface. And then you do it again and again and again? It’s terrible and very dangerous”. Air-Bubbles can get into the women’s veins and lungs and cause brain damage. One of the characters, *Yu-ri* - did have an accident. “Yu-ri went into the sea one person, and came out another”. Another character died in the sea. Two tragedies early in the storytelling.... Yet...Haenyeo - female divers in the Korean Province of *Jeju*, are known for their strength, their independent spirit, their iron will and determination. Their identity was strongly associated with diving. The dangers didn’t influence their thinking. The sea was their life! Originally, diving was an exclusively male profession. By the 18th century, women divers outnumbered the male divers. Gender roles were reversed. Since women divers were the primary breadwinners - their husbands took care of the domestic needs: he looked after children, did the shopping, and cooked the meals. Ritual foods.... “Soup with titlefish, White radish, and seaweed, a bowl of seasoned bracken, turnip and green onion buckwheat pancakes”. Or....Black pig grilled with soy paste and cabbage kimchi. Or.....Sea urchin soup. .....etc. The HISTORICAL ‘FACTS’ were FASCINATING to me. I was naturally curious about the extraordinary diving women - (their culture, their relationships with their mother’s, grandmothers, husbands, and their respect for the sea), the island itself: *Jetju* - the history between the Japanese and Koreans - and the horrific Bukchon Massacre. Lisa Sea brought awareness to devastating historical events that were essentially kept secret for years - Japanese rule, resistance, and retaliation. A riot spread like a forest fire..... In the same way author Tatiana de Rosnay - in “Sara’s Key”, exposed secrets that the French had hidden ( tried to keep secret), - that France participated in roundups - French police knowingly sent Jews to the gas chambers to Auschwitz. ..... Lisa Sea exposed a very dark time in Jeju’s history - (tried to keep secret). American soldiers discovered 97 bodies that were killed and buried by the government. They also encountered police who were executing 76 villagers. Between 14,000, and 30,000, people died as a result of the rebellion. The FICTIONAL STORY .....centered around a friendship between two girls ....both Haenyo divers - their coming of age together - with their trials and tribulations started out interesting. ( both from very different backgrounds: both independently interesting females), but didn’t always hold my interest. I felt ‘their’ story was ‘literary-ordinary’. It wasn’t awful....but ‘common’ storytelling. I have no idea - how history and fiction work together. I read a great quote from another book reviewer not long ago: she enjoyed the facts of the story - the fiction - and not knowing the difference between either. I thought that was GREAT insight.... with an overall great reading experience. For me - I ‘was’ aware of what was FACT and what was FICTION. I often don’t care if the history is perfect. If I’m enjoying the story and the characters, I’m simply enjoying the book.... but this time the HISTORY was my favorite. I found the history fascinating, and interesting, ..... The Haenyos are BEAUTIFUL WOMEN - inside and out......with AMAZING PHOTOS that can be found online. The older women are women, I would enjoy sitting with sharing tea.....( get to know them more). The women’s languages interested me - their dispositions - work ethics- etc. “ The Villiage of Widows”.....was a fascinating chapter in this book. I wanted to know more about role of the village leaders, their resistance to traditional education, ( and why THE SEA trumped everything else in their lives).....when often they were left with physical pain from decades of the water pressure....to their ears, joints - headaches and even painful hips from the “Tewak” they carried. A Tewak is a flotation device about the size of a basketball that sits at the surface of the water with a net hanging beneath it to catch the harvest. Its HUGE ....( see photos online) I liked learning about a vocal practice the women did called “Sumbisori”. It’s a breathing technique used by whales and seals. The diving women practiced too as it allowed them to dive deeper below sea level. I was also interested in political upheavals. They were gut wrenching: I learned a lot. My only - ‘slight’ - criticism was the fictional story. It was ‘fair’ for me. Good...just not over-the-top extraordinary. Doesn’t really matter - as I got what I wanted from this book - An awakening to new history .... which I’ll still be interested in - years from now. Lisa Sea gave me ( and I believed), other readers a great gift with “The Island of Sea Women”. I also agree with the reader who said.....”I’d read the phone book if Lisa Sea wrote it”. ME TOO! Sincere thanks to Scriber Publishing, Netgalley, and Lisa Sea

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    For the first third of this novel, though I was liking the story, I felt like I was observing from afar, wasn't connecting emotionally with the story. I was enjoying learning about the life of the haenyo and their diving collective on the Korean island of Jeju. A matriarchal society is rare, so that was intriguing. The friendship between Mi ja and Young Sook was just beginning, so there was definitely enough to keep me reading. Also this was my monthly read with Angela and Esil, and up to this p For the first third of this novel, though I was liking the story, I felt like I was observing from afar, wasn't connecting emotionally with the story. I was enjoying learning about the life of the haenyo and their diving collective on the Korean island of Jeju. A matriarchal society is rare, so that was intriguing. The friendship between Mi ja and Young Sook was just beginning, so there was definitely enough to keep me reading. Also this was my monthly read with Angela and Esil, and up to this point we all felt the same. This changed rapidly for the rest of the book. The tumultuous years of the Japanese colonialism of the 30, and 40' provided a historical and brutal context. The brutality is just terrible, the inaction of the American troops who just stood by, the massacres that were covered up for decades. So much was happening politically that in the hands of a less gifted writer, this book could have been much longer. The friendship between the girls change due to circumstances that were so horrible. Each, though the other didn't know the full extent, go through some brutal challenges. It won't be until books end that we hear the full story. The book occasionally fast forwards to 2018, when a family comes looking for Young Sook. Now I her eighties we see how she fared through the years and what connection this family has to hers. A book that will make you cringe, but eventually pull you in to a friendship that was special and the lives of the haenyo, these women of the sea. It is well written, well researched and the prose is wonderful. It is a novel that shows how much we miss, misjudge, when we fail to forgive. ARC from Edelweiss.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Mi-ja and Young-sook are best friends who grew up on the Korean Island of Jeju. They are part of the Haenyeo culture on the island. The Haenyeo, or women of the sea, can dive deep, have a higher shivering threshold, and provide for their families, even diving while pregnant. The girls/women met when they were seven years old and became baby divers together. They spent all their time together, as best friends do, sharing secrets, dreams, wishes and their shared plans for their futures. But life a Mi-ja and Young-sook are best friends who grew up on the Korean Island of Jeju. They are part of the Haenyeo culture on the island. The Haenyeo, or women of the sea, can dive deep, have a higher shivering threshold, and provide for their families, even diving while pregnant. The girls/women met when they were seven years old and became baby divers together. They spent all their time together, as best friends do, sharing secrets, dreams, wishes and their shared plans for their futures. But life and circumstances have a way of altering the best of plans. Separated when they are married, they try to maintain their friendship until a tragic event drives them apart. This book started slowly for me. I have loved every single Lisa See book that I have read and have been drawn in to them within the first couple of pages. This one took almost half the book to draw me in, but once in, I was full invested in the story. There is a lot of history in these pages, not only between these two women and their families/husbands but also on the island of Jeju itself. I appreciated the historical aspect of this book and learning about the Haenyeo. I found the culture of the diving women to be fascinating as was the fact that these women were the chief bread winners in their families. “Haenyeo were Korea’s first working moms,” said Koh Mi, an editor at the Jeju newspaper Jemin Ilbo and a participant in a nine-year research project on the sea women. “They were a symbol of female independence and strength in Korea.” I read in one article published in 2014 that in 20 years, most of the Haenyeo will be gone. The history of the island between the years of 1930's to the 1950's is also shown in this book, having the characters suffer through tragedy, uprising and killings. Lisa See did a wonderful job researching this book and shared how she approached her research in her Author's note. I just wished I would have been more drawn by the story in the beginning. I can't quite put my finger on what was lacking for me. I did not feel connected to the characters and in the beginning kept turning to other books to read. But around the half way mark, the story picked up for me and I was fully invested in these two women, their lives, their hardships, their heartbreak and the one event which will leave both troubled and haunted. A horrific even which will alter their lives forever. Thank you to Scribner and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    PorshaJo

    Rating 3.75 I'm sure I'm in the minority on this one. And to be honest, I'm torn. I'm a big Lisa See fan. I've read a number of her books. Some I've loved, some not so much. I've attended numerous talks by her and will always try and see her speak when I can. I have one of her books, Peony in Love, that I've been holding on to years to read. I just always want to have one of her books in reserve. (Yup, weird book habits). But with this one....I'm just wavering in my thoughts. First, love, love, lo Rating 3.75 I'm sure I'm in the minority on this one. And to be honest, I'm torn. I'm a big Lisa See fan. I've read a number of her books. Some I've loved, some not so much. I've attended numerous talks by her and will always try and see her speak when I can. I have one of her books, Peony in Love, that I've been holding on to years to read. I just always want to have one of her books in reserve. (Yup, weird book habits). But with this one....I'm just wavering in my thoughts. First, love, love, love the cover. Now, the story is told from the point of view of two young Korean girls, Mi-ja and Young-sook, living in the Jeju islands. You learn of their lives, the horrors they lived through, but ultimately you learn in detail of what these women do....they work in the sea, diving for food, for their families. Women go to work to support their families and men stay at home to watch the children. You learn of the history of these islands and the amazing feats these women perform on a daily basis. You watch them grow, and ultimately, you see what tears them apart. Amazing! I'm a fan of historical fiction and you learn a lot here. So fascinating to hear of these women, I'm a big lover of the sea so I found this very fascinating. And let's face it, no one can write a female tight-friendship story that is torn due to some 'conflict' like Lisa See. At times, this one took me back to reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. But.....at other times, I found it was dragging a bit and I found my mind wandering. I listened to the audio and all the names, at time, I did get confused and wished I had print. I really enjoyed her last story, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, and perhaps I compared the two. Just seemed for me, this one was slow at times, hence my lower rating. I always start out reading a book thinking it's a 4 star and as I read, I adjust my rating. Though I'm very, very stingy with 5 stars. Overall, I'm very glad I read this one and always look forward to her next book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    This book was soo good and sad and did I say good!? It’s now on one of my Amazon wishlists!! Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    Talk about a fascinating premise, and from Lisa See, one of my favorite authors? The Island of Sea Women is captivating historical fiction at its masterful best. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ On the Korean island of Jeju, women do the work of diving, while the men take care of the children. Two girls, Mi-ja and Young-sook, are the best of friends waiting for their time to be old enough to join the diving collective. With their future career comes fun and excitement along with significant danger. Mi-ja and You Talk about a fascinating premise, and from Lisa See, one of my favorite authors? The Island of Sea Women is captivating historical fiction at its masterful best. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ On the Korean island of Jeju, women do the work of diving, while the men take care of the children. Two girls, Mi-ja and Young-sook, are the best of friends waiting for their time to be old enough to join the diving collective. With their future career comes fun and excitement along with significant danger. Mi-ja and Young-sook are from disparate backgrounds. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, which will forever leave a mark on her. Young-sook is destined to lead the divers of their village one day when she’s old enough, as her mother and grandmother have done. This book spans decades, following Japanese colonialism of Korea in the 1930s and 40s, World War II, the Korean War, and the present day. Forces external to these women will test their friendship. Will their forged bond be enough to keep them from splintering apart? Who knew these women were living this way on a tiny Korean island? I was instantly enthralled with this story and could not get enough. The characters, in true Lisa See style, are richly developed, as is the alluring setting. The backdrop of events is heartbreaking and haunting. These women are strong, fiercely so, indomitable of spirit, capable of leading their families through hardship and strife into healing and hope. The Island of Sea Women is truly an unforgettable, indelible read. I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own. My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    ***NOW AVAILABLE*** This was a bit of a slow moving read for me, probably because there were so many characters and so much detail about a multitude of things. When we start the novel the island of Jeju off the coast of Korea is under Japanese control. The two main characters Mi-ja and Young-sook are young girls, but already being groomed to become “Haenyeo”, strong women divers who gradually learn to hold their breath long enough to dive to the ocean floor. There is much more to their culture th ***NOW AVAILABLE*** This was a bit of a slow moving read for me, probably because there were so many characters and so much detail about a multitude of things. When we start the novel the island of Jeju off the coast of Korea is under Japanese control. The two main characters Mi-ja and Young-sook are young girls, but already being groomed to become “Haenyeo”, strong women divers who gradually learn to hold their breath long enough to dive to the ocean floor. There is much more to their culture than just diving but this review would be way too long if I started to list their beliefs and rituals! In this society the women are expected to provide all the food and money for the family while the husbands care for the children and are responsible for cooking the family meals. The women even maintain their vegetable gardens while the men never work. Young-sook is the daughter of the head of the collective which dives to support their family. Her family has lived on the island for generations and don’t know anything much about the “outside” world. At this time they are under Japanese control and they are very fearful of the Japanese soldiers who are known for their brutal treatment of women and corrupt governing. Mi-ja is an orphan who lives with her aunt and uncle. She was from the Jeju City so was used to living a different life. Her parents were financially well off and known to be Japanese collaborators. She was used to a lifestyle with pretty dresses, a nice home, etc. Her aunt and uncle treat her terribly, she is pretty much used as a slave to them, forcing her to do all of the household and field work and beat her. Mi-ja finally gets up the courage to ask Young-sook’s mother if she could be taught how to dive and join the collective. The women feel sorry for her but she is still tainted as a Japanese collaborator, however they teach her the ways of the “Haenyeo” and she joins them. Later the two young women go to summer jobs in China and Japan to bring in more money for the family. When they are 21 they go to the Soviet Union, Vladivostok, where they dive in the icy cold waters and live in boarding houses which are almost hovels. When they return the last time from their summer work they have already had marriages arranged for them. Young-sook is to wed a long time island man, Junba, who is now a teacher in Jeju city and whom she has known since childhood. Mi-ja is to wed Sang-mun who works in Jeju city for the Japanese. After these weddings and throughout the years, many things happen to tear the girls relationship apart. Since this book spans so many years we are audience to the many atrocities that accompany wars and demonstrations of control. Many people lost loved one to brutal killings by the Japanese. An uprising, later known as the 4.3 incident, caused the massacre of thousands of the islanders including women and children. Young-sook reached out to Mi-ja to help save them but she turned to her husband and left. What happens tears them apart forever. The ending is a very good one and satisfying to read. It is very emotional and enlightening. However much I enjoyed this book I didn’t seem to feel the connection to the characters that I have in other Lisa See books. The author did incredibly extensive research which she details at the end of the book. I received an ARC of this novel from publisher through Edelweiss.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kylie D

    A deeply moving tale, 'The Island Of Sea Women' follows the life of Young-sook from when she's an inexperienced baby diver, through to being chief haenyeo, through to her eighties. Young-sook and her best friend Mi-ja grow up together in a small village on the South Korean island of Jeju. They are destined to be best friends forever, through learning to dive, getting married and having their first babies. But life doesn't always work out how you want it too. We follow these women's lives through A deeply moving tale, 'The Island Of Sea Women' follows the life of Young-sook from when she's an inexperienced baby diver, through to being chief haenyeo, through to her eighties. Young-sook and her best friend Mi-ja grow up together in a small village on the South Korean island of Jeju. They are destined to be best friends forever, through learning to dive, getting married and having their first babies. But life doesn't always work out how you want it too. We follow these women's lives through World War 2, the Korean War and into the present, where modern amenities are taking over from the old way of life from Young-sook's youth. This is a novel of grief, anger and bitterness, yet elation and happiness too. The bravery of these women, after everything they have gone through, is a revelation, and a testament to their toughness and will to survive. The character of Young-sook is memorable, a wonderful mother and wife, even when the world seems to be so against her. I am so glad I read this book and would recommend it to all lovers of historical fiction, and to strong women everywhere. My thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for an uncorrected proof in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are entirely my own.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Langford

    4.5**** “How do we fall in love? ... How different it is with friendship. No one picks a friend for us. We come together by choice. We are not tied together through ceremony or the responsibility to create a son. We tie ourselves together through moment. The spark when we first meet. Laughter and tears shared. Secrets packed away to be treasured, hoarded, and protected. The wonder that someone can be so different from you and yet still understand your heart in a way no one else ever will.” This wa 4.5**** “How do we fall in love? ... How different it is with friendship. No one picks a friend for us. We come together by choice. We are not tied together through ceremony or the responsibility to create a son. We tie ourselves together through moment. The spark when we first meet. Laughter and tears shared. Secrets packed away to be treasured, hoarded, and protected. The wonder that someone can be so different from you and yet still understand your heart in a way no one else ever will.” This was a capturing read encircling the lives of two female friends on the island of Jeju. This book follows the lives of Young-sook and Mi-ja, two girls from very different backgrounds whose lives intertwine. Young-sook comes from a traditional Haenyeo family; all female members have been part of their village's all female diving collective. Mi-ja, meanwhile, is the offspring of a collaborator and is sent to live in the village with her aunt and uncle. While these two lives intertwine, friendship blossoms and both become Haenyeo and part of the sea. This book chronicles their to lives, told from the perspective of Young-sook, as they live through the Japanese colonisation of Korea, both World Wars and the Korean War, as well as capturing the force of the introduction of technology (the internet, TV, electricity) to the small village, to the more specific introductions of wet-suits for the divers to wear. However, through forces and atrocities (often all very shocking and almost unbelievable to read due to the sheer volume of sadistic and heinous acts) during these turbulent times, their friendship is shattered apart by their individual choices which are inextricably tangled, effecting the next generation of their families. This was a highly valued learning experience for me. While I have read a bit about the Haenyeo before and the colonisation of Korea in the book "White Chrysanthemum", this book focused mainly on the Island of Jeju during turbulent times, and in particular, the effect this has been on the Haenyeo. This book was highly informational, and often shocking, detailing the life as a Haenyeo and the fatalities they face, as well as other arduous cultural practices. We are witness to how society is rooted in Confucianism, and yet, the island of Jeju, with particular regards to the Haeyneo, live interestingly and rarely in a matri-focal society. I particular loved learning about the Haenyeo life, especially the diving and being in the water for long periods of time (it has even motivated me to take up swimming again!). Learning of Korean culture, Haenyeo culture and Jeju history through the fictional tales of these two women was compelling. I loved all the knowledge that Lisa See was able to compact into this book. This was a much needed and capturing read, both vivid and empathetic. It has alighted a curiosity in me to learn more about Haenyeo culture. “The sea is better than a mother. You can love your mother, and she still might leave you. You can love or hate the sea, but it will always be there. Forever. The sea has been the center of her life. It has nurtured her and stolen from her, but it has never left.”

  13. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." (Mother Teresa) The threads of time, commitment, connection, and honor run deeply through this latest offering by the highly talented Lisa See. We follow her to the Korean volcanic island of Jeju in the Korean Strait. Jeju is filled with jutting cliffs, white sandy beaches, and the deafening roar of the sea. But the beauty of these surroundings is far outmatched by the resilience of its people.....and in particul "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." (Mother Teresa) The threads of time, commitment, connection, and honor run deeply through this latest offering by the highly talented Lisa See. We follow her to the Korean volcanic island of Jeju in the Korean Strait. Jeju is filled with jutting cliffs, white sandy beaches, and the deafening roar of the sea. But the beauty of these surroundings is far outmatched by the resilience of its people.....and in particular, its women. Haenyeo or "Korean Mermaids" have been a collective group of female divers who have taken to the sea for eons. They search for their daily catch of abalone, squid, octopus, and the like while their house husbands remain at home caring for the children. The reverse roles of males/females work well for the divers who provide for their families. Some of the chosen women even travel to the Soviet Union for extra work. The Island of Sea Women spans from the 1930's to the 1950's and reflects the historical happenings of the time. The Korean people have a strong sense of identity, but it has been mottled by Japanese occupation. The Japanese presence leaned heavily on both the culture and the language. Some Korean men traveled to Japan for work and were away from their families. Suspicion roamed the streets and caution took a palatable place in the market square. We'll also see the effects of the Korean War and the great fear of communism after the U.S. occupation. And through all of this, two young women, Mi-ja and Young-sook, will take their first dives under the guidance of the experienced haenyeo divers. Mi-ja comes from a displaced background whose father is a Japanese collaborator. She lives with her elderly aunt and uncle. Young-sook's mother takes her in and teaches her the skills along with her own daughter. But the sea is a fiercely dangerous place and tragedy will strike this band of women multiple times throughout the years. Lisa See creates a panorama showcasing these young women as they perfect their newly found occupation. But just as these women test the uncertainties of these waters, Lisa See goes into the dark depths encasing the relationship between Mi-ja and Young-sook. There will come the day when both women will face an unspeakable horror. A snap decision, a gut-wrenching choice, and the suffocating aftermath will haunt each of them for many, many years. Finding peace is like a twisted piece of driftwood floating upon the surface of the sea.....released from its roots and so within reach. But it's all in the desire of making it so. I received a copy of The Island of Sea Women through NetGalley. My thanks to Scribner Publishers and Lisa See for the opportunity.

  14. 5 out of 5

    JanB

    5 stars! On the tiny island of Jeju in South Korea, live the “Sea Women”, the haenyeo. Starting at a young age under the tutelage of their elders, girls undergo rigorous training to dive the depths of the ocean and harvest sea urchins, octopus, and other delicacies from the ocean floor. And they do it in icy waters wearing only a thin, homemade cotton swim costume, with no oxygen tank or other diving apparatus. In a role reversal uncommon for the times, the women provided for their families whil 5 stars! On the tiny island of Jeju in South Korea, live the “Sea Women”, the haenyeo. Starting at a young age under the tutelage of their elders, girls undergo rigorous training to dive the depths of the ocean and harvest sea urchins, octopus, and other delicacies from the ocean floor. And they do it in icy waters wearing only a thin, homemade cotton swim costume, with no oxygen tank or other diving apparatus. In a role reversal uncommon for the times, the women provided for their families while the men stayed home to take care of the home and children. It was a hard life with a level of subsistence poverty unknown to most of us. You know going into a Lisa See novel that the depth of research into her subject is remarkable. When reading a historical fiction book, I need to trust that the author has his or her facts correct and doesn’t play loose with the truth. And that is exactly what we get with this author. But the heart of this story, which spans 70 years, is the friendship between two young women, Young-sook and Mi-ja. Mi-Ja was orphaned at a young age and taken in by an aunt and uncle who were cruel and abusive. Young-sook was the daughter of the head of the diving collective, a position of honor and respect that would one day fall to Young-sook. The girls form a strong friendship and bond and were like sisters, vowing to always remain together. Political turmoil and upheaval eventually sets their lives on a different course and one of the girls commits an unforgivable act that severs the relationship for decades. I loved the themes of friendship, betrayal, guilt, and forgiveness that these two women embodied. No one does complex, powerful female friendships quite like Lisa See, and there was a strong theme of female relationships among the families and diving collective. The novel spans decades, and includes the Japanese occupation of the island in the ‘30s and ‘40s, WWII, the Korean War, the communist insurgency, and the April 3, 1948 uprising that led to deaths in the tens of thousands. The horrendous conditions and the brutality were often difficult to read, but the history is important for us to know. This is historical fiction at its best and made for a fantastic buddy read with my friend Marialyce. It opened us up to a world we didn’t know existed. History came alive, seamlessly woven into the story of the women. I turned the last page enriched by the experience of my reading, and was left with awe and admiration for these women of the sea and their strength, both physical and mental. Even if you don’t plan to read this book (although I urge you to do so) please visit Lisa See’s (spoiler-free) website where you can follow links to see the research the author conducted for the book, see the pictures, and read of the ancient traditions of the haenyeo, which continues to this day: http://www.lisasee.com/islandofseawomen/ ** I started out both listening and reading this in print but ended up preferring the audiobook, by far. I went back to the print only for the names and once again to re-read the uprising sections. The narrator, Jennifer Lim, was superb. ** please visit Marialyce’s blog for our reviews of this book (and others): http://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpress...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce

    There is nothing better than a well researched historical fiction novel. This book was extensive in its detail of the fictional lives of its two principal protagonists Mi-Ja and Young-Sook. It was was a book seeped in detail, filled with sorrow, and the ideal of friendship, and although hard to conceptualize at times, the things these women endured, it was a riveting story of strength, valor, and fortitude. Mi-Ja and Young-Sook are the best of friends. They anxiously look forward to their beginni There is nothing better than a well researched historical fiction novel. This book was extensive in its detail of the fictional lives of its two principal protagonists Mi-Ja and Young-Sook. It was was a book seeped in detail, filled with sorrow, and the ideal of friendship, and although hard to conceptualize at times, the things these women endured, it was a riveting story of strength, valor, and fortitude. Mi-Ja and Young-Sook are the best of friends. They anxiously look forward to their beginnings in a group of women who troll the sea floor and its environs looking for sea creatures that they could sell. They join a cast of women, led by Young-Sook’s mother, who experience not only the rigors of the dive, but also the cold water, the dangers, and the threat that everyday might be their last one. They are the baby divers trained to withstand conditions that test not only their bodies but their souls. “You may not know this, but the cold-water stress that the haenyeo endure is greater than for any other human group in the world.” As they grow to form partnerships, they experience sorrow and sadness. For not only are they under the duress of their diving but they as living on Jeju island where they are undergoing the realities of the times. From the Japanese control through World War 2 and the Korean War, their lives are hanging in the balance of conflict and hardship. The two fast friends experience so much sadness and through circumstances of the times, they grow apart and become estranged from each other. Their friendship breaks apart as each girl experiences her own personal hell. Yet, each one survives to see change, to see a world so different from the one they knew, to see that life and friendship often go on to an end that is blessed with a final understanding as a place for peace of the heart, mind, and soul. “Every woman who enters the sea carries a coffin on her back,” she warned the gathering. “In this world, in the undersea world, we tow the burdens of a hard life. We are crossing between life and death every day”, Yet they survive and as times change and their families grow, they learn that what they once had was something special, something that they alone could hold claim to, something the world and the sea made them become. Told through extensive research, this book opened up a world that I never knew of. It became a source of wonder for this reader as I read of the indomitable spirit of these women, the struggles that would seem to be crushing, and the will to go forward and be what they were born to be……women of the sea. This was another book read with my book buddy, Jan. We both so appreciated the exquisite research that went into making this story come into being. https://www.diveoclock.com/destinatio... To see our reviews, you can go here: http://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpress...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brenda - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews

    3.5 Stars I read The Island of Sea Women for the Goodreads Summer Reading Challenge and read it with a couple of my Traveling Friends. I used it for the prompt for Not from around here: Read a book set in a different culture from your own. I was completely drawn into the setting here to the remote Jeju Island in South Korea that is home to haenyeo “sea woman” who all are female free drivers. I was fascinated by these strong, proud women who took risks and made sacrifices to feed their families an 3.5 Stars I read The Island of Sea Women for the Goodreads Summer Reading Challenge and read it with a couple of my Traveling Friends. I used it for the prompt for Not from around here: Read a book set in a different culture from your own. I was completely drawn into the setting here to the remote Jeju Island in South Korea that is home to haenyeo “sea woman” who all are female free drivers. I was fascinated by these strong, proud women who took risks and made sacrifices to feed their families and their passion for the sea The Island of Sea Woman explores the friendship and family dynamics between two young girls, Young-soo and Mi-Ja. The story takes place in a span of 80 years as we follow the girls through their heartache and challenges. The tension and suspense rise as the girls start to drift apart due do betrayal and the struggle for forgiveness. About halfway through the story, it takes a turn and Lisa See’s extensive research starts to show and at times read like nonfiction to me. She delves deep in the history and events here that took place over a period of time and I started to lose that emotion connected to the characters. Even though I wanted the focus to stay on the tradition and lives of the generation of women as we see them become more adaptive to modern ways, I did find the story interesting In the end, I thought the story came together well and I was really glad to learn about a culture I knew nothing about. I recommend. I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley

  17. 4 out of 5

    Berit☀️✨

    What a beautiful, haunting, and inspiring story! Lisa See never fails to impress or educate me through her stunning storytelling. This is the story of two friends Mi-ja and Young-sook who Live on the Korean island of Jeju. Jeju is the home of the Haenyeo, Women who spend their days diving in the sea holding their breath for an unbelievable amount of time and harvesting shellfish and see creatures. This is a matriarchal society where the women go out and work and the men stay home and take care o What a beautiful, haunting, and inspiring story! Lisa See never fails to impress or educate me through her stunning storytelling. This is the story of two friends Mi-ja and Young-sook who Live on the Korean island of Jeju. Jeju is the home of the Haenyeo, Women who spend their days diving in the sea holding their breath for an unbelievable amount of time and harvesting shellfish and see creatures. This is a matriarchal society where the women go out and work and the men stay home and take care of the children. The girls spend their days in the sea waiting for the day that they too can dive. But this is not an easy life the sea is unpredictable and unforgiving. The island of Jeju was a strategic military hold constantly changing occupants. A tumultuous time in Korean history that adversely impactsed this peaceful island. As in all Lisa See’s books I was completely fascinated with the history. I am ashamed to say I knew absolutely next to nothing about Korea and why Japan or America ever occupied the country. I mean I knew there was a Korean war but probably most of what I learned about it took place on the television show MASH. The reality of it was so brutal. What these people went through was heartbreaking and ultimately it was a unbelievable tragedy that tour Mi-ha and Young-sook apart. These were women who had grown up together, dove together, traveled together, were pregnant together, gave birth on a boat together, and yet the politics of others destroyed their friendship. Some parts of this book were hard to read about as the truth often is. I think this was an important story about a group of people that deserve to have their story heard. This book in emojis: 👭 🌊 🤿 🏊‍♀️ 💪🏻 🐙 For more of my reviews and bookish thoughts please visit my blog

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Set on the South Korean island of Jeju, under Japanese occupation when the narrative begins this novel investigates the enigmatic and traditional collective of haenyo - groups of women who deep sea dive with rudimentary equipment while their husbands stay at home looking after the children. In other words, we have a role reversal here. The novel focuses on the deep friendship between Young-Sook and Mi-Ja, a friendship which will be broken asunder when civil war breaks out and Korea enters the da Set on the South Korean island of Jeju, under Japanese occupation when the narrative begins this novel investigates the enigmatic and traditional collective of haenyo - groups of women who deep sea dive with rudimentary equipment while their husbands stay at home looking after the children. In other words, we have a role reversal here. The novel focuses on the deep friendship between Young-Sook and Mi-Ja, a friendship which will be broken asunder when civil war breaks out and Korea enters the darkest period of its history. It's a novel written with heaps of love - to the point where I could imagine the author feeling bereft when she finished and was no longer living in the world she created. And she does a fabulous job of creating a lost magical world which almost seems to belong to mythology. The home strait is perhaps the weakest part of the novel but otherwise it had me gripped throughout.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    If you're interested in modern Asian history this makes for an engrossing read. Not only does it tell of the fascinating lives of the traditional haenyeo, or diving women who harvested fish and seafood on the Korean island of Jeju, but it also describes the political eruptions that affected their lives during Japanese occupation and later the Korean war, ultimately leading to the violent Jeju Uprising in 1948 where anywhere up to 60,000 people were killed and another 40,000 fled to Japan. At the If you're interested in modern Asian history this makes for an engrossing read. Not only does it tell of the fascinating lives of the traditional haenyeo, or diving women who harvested fish and seafood on the Korean island of Jeju, but it also describes the political eruptions that affected their lives during Japanese occupation and later the Korean war, ultimately leading to the violent Jeju Uprising in 1948 where anywhere up to 60,000 people were killed and another 40,000 fled to Japan. At the opening of the novel in 1938, Jeju is under Japanese rule during WWII and many men are away fighting for the Japanese army or working in Japanese factories. Traditionally women have long been the divers in the family with the men spending the days looking after the children. Life is hard, with the Japanese taking much of the catch, but the women still enjoy their fishing and the companionship of the other divers as well as training young women in the art of diving. The events are told through the eyes of Young-sook who with her friend Mi-ja start their training together as young teenagers and become close friends, even traveling to work as divers overseas to bring in extra money. Their friendship becomes strained when they marry very different men but they remain in contact until an act of extreme violence tears apart their friendship and their lives. Threaded through the novel are chapters set in 2008 when Young-sook is an old woman, retired from diving and although living a comfortable life with successful children and grandchildren, still likes to go to the beach daily to collect seaweed. She is approached by an American family with news of Mi-ja and what they tell her will lead her to some understanding and forgiveness for Mi-ja. This is a heart-rending tale of friendship and redemption set against some brutal historical events. I knew little of the events that occurred on Jeju island, especially the Bukchon Uprising in 1948. It's a story that needs to be told and as with all her books, Lisa See has carried out very thorough research. Young-sook is a wonderful character and it was easy to see events through her eyes and empathise with her, although I would also have liked to have got a better feel for Mi-ja who was much more difficult to get a feel for what she was feeling. The camaderie and strength of the haenyeo was wonderful and clearly the bonds that tied them together through all the difficult times helped them to survive and make for a harrowing but engrossing story. 4.5★

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    [3.4] I can usually count on Lisa See to deliver an engrossing story along with a history lesson. In The Island of Sea Women, See certainly delivers the history lesson! I learned about the haenyeo, the courageous diving women who live on the island of Jeju in South Korea. I knew nothing about them and was fascinated. I was also horrified to learn about the 4:3 Massacre where thousands of citizens were murdered by the government in 1948. Unfortunately, the novel felt like scaffolding for the hist [3.4] I can usually count on Lisa See to deliver an engrossing story along with a history lesson. In The Island of Sea Women, See certainly delivers the history lesson! I learned about the haenyeo, the courageous diving women who live on the island of Jeju in South Korea. I knew nothing about them and was fascinated. I was also horrified to learn about the 4:3 Massacre where thousands of citizens were murdered by the government in 1948. Unfortunately, the novel felt like scaffolding for the historical detail. It was often a slog. I may have been better off reading a non-fiction book about the events. Lisa See has some great videos and info on this webpage: https://www.lisasee.com/islandofseawo...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Libby

    Set on Jeju Island in the Korea Strait, Lisa See’s novel focuses on the matrifocal society of haenyeo, women sea divers. The women learn at early ages from their mothers and grandmothers to dive and harvest the ocean’s plants and sea creatures, coming up at frequent intervals to release their breath, called sumbisori. “Sumbisori is a vocal practice based on a breathing technique used by whales and seals.” https://www.liminaldome.com/sumbisori The women are the providers for the family. Fathers, h Set on Jeju Island in the Korea Strait, Lisa See’s novel focuses on the matrifocal society of haenyeo, women sea divers. The women learn at early ages from their mothers and grandmothers to dive and harvest the ocean’s plants and sea creatures, coming up at frequent intervals to release their breath, called sumbisori. “Sumbisori is a vocal practice based on a breathing technique used by whales and seals.” https://www.liminaldome.com/sumbisori The women are the providers for the family. Fathers, husbands, and sons support the women by taking care of the children and cooking meals. Imagine! The conversations of the women as they meet at the bulteok before going into the sea and after coming out of it are very interesting, with lots of complaining about their husbands, some of whom are considered lazy. A family is very happy to have sons, however, because only the sons can do ancestor worship. A very different way of life that seems to have developed around the seasons of the ocean. The heart of this story is about the friendship between Young-sook, a daughter of the chief of one of the haenyeo collectives, and an orphan girl, Mi-ja, taken in by her aunt and uncle, who bear her no great love and are often cruel and neglectful. Jeju is colonized by the Japanese as Part 1 begins in 1938. Mi-ja is marked by the community because her father was a Japanese collaborator, so when Young-sook’s mother takes Mi-ja under her wing, it allows Mi-ja to assimilate into the village. Later, as teenagers, the two girls will become diving partners. In the aftermath of World War II, the nation of Korea is divided by the United States and the Soviet Union along the 38th parallel. The politics leave the island of Jeju in upheaval as islanders want to decide their own elections, rather than just accept South Korea’s government. The accusations of communism promote a crusade of atrocities that were so difficult to read about that I had to take breaks from the story. Mi-ja and Young-sook are caught up in a tragic situation that sews the seeds for hurt and anger. Can a friendship with such depth survive? We expect the most of our deepest and truest friends. Is it ever too much? Lisa See will take the reader to 2008, when Young-sook is 85, and then back to 1938 and through the years into her adulthood. I really enjoyed See’s narrative positioning; for the year 2008 she uses third person limited POV, in which the reader knows Young-sook’s thoughts, but this enables the reader to stand slightly outside the character and see her as others might; it’s a more panoramic view. For the remainder of the narrative, See uses first person POV, engaging me with this character and her way of life. Using these two POVs was very effective. In the third person parts, I felt like I could see Young-sook as others were seeing her, especially the family from America, that come to Jeju longing to connect the dots in their family history. I enjoyed reading a story about such close friendships between women, the connections that children brought, and a way of life tied to the ocean. I knew nothing of the deeply disturbing history of Jeju island, whose message seems to imply that people are best off determining, as much as possible, their own governments. A worthwhile book for shedding a light on a dark place in history and the emotional impact of what happens to families and friendships in the aftermath of tragedy. The ending had me in tears, very poignant, stirring.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    photo credit: https://www.deepblu.com/mag/index.php... ★★★★½ Full of history, culture and female collectivity, The Island of Sea Women spans generations while showcasing the women who put their lives at risk for tradition. Author Lisa See explores the haenyeo (Korean for 'sea women'), female freedivers of the South Korean island of Jeju, who have trained their bodies to withstand the extremes of the surrounding waters to gather marine life from the ocean's floor. But their physical adaptability ap photo credit: https://www.deepblu.com/mag/index.php... ★★★★½ Full of history, culture and female collectivity, The Island of Sea Women spans generations while showcasing the women who put their lives at risk for tradition. Author Lisa See explores the haenyeo (Korean for 'sea women'), female freedivers of the South Korean island of Jeju, who have trained their bodies to withstand the extremes of the surrounding waters to gather marine life from the ocean's floor. But their physical adaptability appears to be part metaphor for the very necessary emotional resilience that these characters' lives will require of them. Love, loss, friendship, betrayal, colonization and massacre... the smiles and tragedies ride the waves hand in hand, and the support of a true sisterhood ensures no one drowns in their suffering. I found this novel absolutely fascinating as I learned more about this women-focused society I had only heard about a few times prior. The communal spirit of this culture was so inspiring. But this story mirrors the depths of the sea as it alternates between present day (2008) and past (1938-1975), showing the evolution of relationships, suffering and cultural generation gaps that transition traditions into past tense. Please know this story is absolutely heartbreaking in its journey, and the reader will feel it all. There is raw anger, injustice, sorrow, but also hope. As the story of these women teaches readers about sacrifice, it also teaches that it is never too late to forgive, and there is no better lesson to learn. My favorite quote: “Children are hope and joy. On land, you will be a mother. In the sea, you can be a grieving widow. Your tears will be added to the oceans of salty tears that wash in great waves across our planet. This I know. If you try to live, you can live on well.” Audiobook narrated by the talented Jennifer Lim.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bkwmlee

    Lisa See is now officially on my favorite authors list, despite the fact that I have not yet read every single one of her novels (which I intend to rectify one of these days). Ever since reading her previous work The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (a book that I absolutely adored), I had been anxiously awaiting the release of See’s next novel — even though it took 2 years, the wait was definitely worth it! With her newest work, The Island of Sea Women , Lisa See delivers yet another richly Lisa See is now officially on my favorite authors list, despite the fact that I have not yet read every single one of her novels (which I intend to rectify one of these days). Ever since reading her previous work The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (a book that I absolutely adored), I had been anxiously awaiting the release of See’s next novel — even though it took 2 years, the wait was definitely worth it! With her newest work, The Island of Sea Women , Lisa See delivers yet another richly detailed, emotional tale that explores female friendships, family relationships, and the bond between mother and daughter, all against the historical backdrop of political unrest in Korea during the 1930s and 1940s (and beyond that), as well as spanning multiple wars. As the story opens, we are introduced to Kim Young-sook as an old woman in her 80s, one of the few remaining haenyeo (female diver) still living on the small Korean island of Jeju. Though long-retired from the work of diving and harvesting from the ocean that had been a way of life for her family since childhood and later in her adult life, helped her raise her own family, Young-sook continues to have a special relationship with the sea, which is like a second home to her. As she sits on the shore sorting algae, she encounters a Korean-American family — a couple and their two children — who ask her specifically if she knows Han Mi-ja, to which she answers that she does not know her. It turns out that Mi-ja also used to be a haenyeo, but not only that, she and Young-sook were childhood friends, once as close as sisters — but that was several decades ago. What caused Young-sook and Mi-Ja’s once tight-knit friendship to break apart to the point of no return? The family’s visit stirs up memories of a long ago past and a time period marked by pain, suffering, as well as tragedy, but most significantly, it leads Young-sook on a personal journey of self-reflection that unearths long-buried secrets about the two women’s relationship. As we’ve come to expect with all of Lisa See’s novels, this story was well-researched and masterfully told in a way that gave us as readers an authentically-felt rendering of history told through richly developed fictional characters who always manage to make their way into our hearts. One of the things I love about See’s novels is her focus on strong women characters and this story was certainly no exception — as See writes in her Author’s Note, Jeju women were held in high regard for their “strength, independence, and persistence” and all the haenyeo characters in the story, from the older generation of Sun-sil and Do-saeng to the later generation in Young-sook, Mi-ja, the Kang sisters, etc. all personified these traits and more. I loved all of the characters, but Young-sook especially made an impact on me, even with her stubbornness and other flaws that made her difficult at times. I also appreciated the historical elements that See was able to weave so seamlessly into the context of the story. From Japanese colonialism to World War II to American occupation and the establishment of the Korean republic, through the Korean War all the way to modern day, each time period had an impact on the plot, but it is the April Third Incident in 1949 that plays the most significant role in Yoon-sook and Mi-ja’s story. Prior to reading this book, I had actually never heard about the April Third Incident and was floored to find out the extent of the horrors — the burning of 70% of the island’s villages, the massacre of close to 80,000 people, the displacement of several hundred thousand residents, and then to add insult to injury, for over 50 years, survivors were forced to keep quiet about what had happened due to the threat of death or retaliation under the guilt-by-association policy. As always, See did a tremendous amount of research for this novel and it shows. Another aspect I love about Lisa See’s novels is the emotional depth that she is able to bring out with her stories. I read much of the last third of this book with tears in my eyes and the ending actually tore me apart. Young-sook is another of See’s characters whom I know will stay with me for a long time to come (much like Li-yan from The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane still comes into my mind from time to time). Beautifully written with wonderfully developed characters and a moving, unforgettable back story, The Island of Sea Women is yet another Lisa See masterpiece that absolutely deserves to be read. Highly recommended without a doubt! Received ARC from Scribner / Simon & Schuster via both NetGalley and Edelweiss.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bren

    “They did this to me. They did that to me. A woman who thinks that way will never overcome her anger. You are not being punished for your anger. You're being punished by your anger.” ― Lisa See, The Island of Sea Women rating and review to follow. I stayed up until 5:00 AM last night reading this book. I have very mixed feelings on this book. I know it is beloved by many. I did not like it yet I cannot get it out of my mind. And I could not sleep because I was thinking about it. I am trying to put i “They did this to me. They did that to me. A woman who thinks that way will never overcome her anger. You are not being punished for your anger. You're being punished by your anger.” ― Lisa See, The Island of Sea Women rating and review to follow. I stayed up until 5:00 AM last night reading this book. I have very mixed feelings on this book. I know it is beloved by many. I did not like it yet I cannot get it out of my mind. And I could not sleep because I was thinking about it. I am trying to put into words why I had such a reaction to this. More at another time and rating to follow at some point. I have finished this and I still do not think I can write a proper review. I really do not know how I feel about this one. SO no plot descriptions but will talk about my feelings about the book. When I first decided to read this, it sat in front of my for weeks before I picked it up. Sometimes when I read a book, I will thumb through it and randomly read a paragraph to see if I like the writing. I did do this with this book. Sadly..the paragraph I chose was one of the most violent paragraphs in the book. My eyes were reading it before I even registered what happened. As a result, I went into the book, with horror, already knowing what was coming. I also felt for Young-Sook. Yet could not make myself like Mi-ja. It was interesting because one of the main theme's is forgiveness but I just couldn't. SPOILERS: To anyone reading this: Did you buy Mi-ja's explantion because I did not. I also did not really understand it either. Was she saying she would have rather the whole family be murdered then around her husband? And why did she taunt her friend about her mom and sister in law's deaths? I think part of why I am having such a tough time with this book, is that I cannot stand Mi-ja. I feel bad as I know the author's theme was forgiveness. Maybe I am to jaded to internalize the message but I do not think I would have forgiven either, not without a proper explanation. I also have to mention one of my GR friend's Jenna who summed it up perfectly. It was hard to connect emotionally, to know what certain characters were feeling. I never really understood Mi'ja and what she was feeling and why she was feeling it. I felt pity for her, I did, at her terrible fate and terrible husband. But I do not understand why she asked Young-sook to choose between her children, knowing, as she later said, that she could not take even one. And I have no idea, when the ladies do meet again for the first time, why she tormented Young-sook with revealing the secrets about her mother and her sister in law. That did not represent to me, someone filled with guilt, as she later said she was. I was really confused by that and still am. I feel badly, like I missed something and if I did, please feel free to comment. I think the writer wanted Mi-ja to be forgiven but I just could not because I did not understand why she did what she did in the first place. I was fascinated by the diving but could not really enjoy that either because of the deepening sense of DREAD. It seemed like every time they dove, something awful happened. The violence, the carnage, the brutality from the first few chapters was very graphic and married my ability to enjoy this book. Originally I had thought I would not finish this but the book called to me. I did read it and was moved. And I cried. So that is why this still gets a four. I can appreciate the depth of research the author did and I can appreciate the beauty of the island and its people while also admitting just how difficult this book was for me to read. At the same time I feel bad because I wanted to fall in love with it. I could really feel how it would be to love this book. I am not ruling out a second reading. It is a beguiling book, no doubt about that. I think the word "Beguiling" fits Island of Sea Women perfectly. And I have read books as dark as this one many times over although the darkness and the violence comes very early in this book. A strong four stars and please feel free to comment as this is one I would love to talk about.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    In this well researched, illuminating novel exploring the haenyeo culture of Jeju Island in Korea, that of the the titular sea women, Lisa See has opened up a portal to a time and place far removed from my Western life. The reader sees events through the eyes of Young-Sook from her childhood and beginning as a “baby diver” during the years of Japanese occupation, through World War Two, post war occupation by the U.S. military and virulent anti-communist activity, and on to the end of the century In this well researched, illuminating novel exploring the haenyeo culture of Jeju Island in Korea, that of the the titular sea women, Lisa See has opened up a portal to a time and place far removed from my Western life. The reader sees events through the eyes of Young-Sook from her childhood and beginning as a “baby diver” during the years of Japanese occupation, through World War Two, post war occupation by the U.S. military and virulent anti-communist activity, and on to the end of the century. This book shows some of the major benefits of well written historical fiction: it opens up a previously unknown culture, exploring actual historical events through the careful use of well defined characters. It shows us the lives of women on this island, women who form an all-female diving collective which supports the village and individually supports each family. Then it shows us the friendship of two young girls as they approach that early age to enter the sea with the older girls and women. The complications of war, culture and misunderstanding disrupt this friendship as the island too changes over the years. I highly recommend this intriguing historical fiction as an introduction to a place not many have experienced. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    The Island of Sea Women was so interesting. I knew nothing about 20th century Korea and certainly nothing about the island of Jeju and its history of female divers. Lisa See does a fabulous job of laying out Jeju’s history through this novel focused on two fictional divers, Young-sook and Mi-Ja. The story has two timelines. In the contemporary timeline, Young-sook is an old woman approached by Mi-Ja’s granddaughter and great granddaughter; Young-sook denies knowing Mi-Ja. In the historical timel The Island of Sea Women was so interesting. I knew nothing about 20th century Korea and certainly nothing about the island of Jeju and its history of female divers. Lisa See does a fabulous job of laying out Jeju’s history through this novel focused on two fictional divers, Young-sook and Mi-Ja. The story has two timelines. In the contemporary timeline, Young-sook is an old woman approached by Mi-Ja’s granddaughter and great granddaughter; Young-sook denies knowing Mi-Ja. In the historical timeline which is narrated by Young-sook, we see these two characters growing up close like sisters and the events that wrenched them apart. Some of the events are brutal and horrific, but they are based on real historical events so they are important to the story. I loved the history in this book; I don’t always like historical fiction because sometimes it seems to romanticize or trivialize history, but See’s novel does neither. I also liked the story and the characters, although at times the tension between Young-sook and Mi-Ja seemed a bit drawn out. It’s a minor flaw. If you like historical fiction, this is a good one. Another great buddy read with Diane and Angela. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  27. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Sandi ❣

    4 stars I hate it when I put off a review. But I intentionally put this one on hold. I finished the book and then planned to go to book club to discuss it - hoping to see different objectives and then write my review. However, I was unable to go to that book club meeting, then forgot to come back and review this book. So now - sigh - over 2 weeks later I am going to attempt to muddle out a review. I enjoyed this book much more than I expected. I probably would not have picked this book to read if 4 stars I hate it when I put off a review. But I intentionally put this one on hold. I finished the book and then planned to go to book club to discuss it - hoping to see different objectives and then write my review. However, I was unable to go to that book club meeting, then forgot to come back and review this book. So now - sigh - over 2 weeks later I am going to attempt to muddle out a review. I enjoyed this book much more than I expected. I probably would not have picked this book to read if it had not been for the book club. I had never heard of the haenyeo before, but then I know very little of the Korean traditions. This book not only helped to educate me on the culture of the female deep sea diving of Jeju, that provided their families income, but also on the horrific Japanese invasion and occupation of the Korean peninsula and islands. This story tells the lives of two young Korean girls, from the 1930s up to the present day. It tells of their friendship, their life path, their misunderstandings and of their families that follow. Love, loss, friendship, death, and forgiveness are all themes in this book. As is normal Lisa See delivers when she authors a book. She takes on subjects and traditions that I am unaware of and in her easily flowing way teaches, always hidden inside a good story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Thanks to Netgalley and Simon&Shuster Canada for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review. Set on the Korean island of Jeju, The Island of Sea Women is a tale of friendship and forgiveness during the backdrop of various world events. Lisa See isn't just a compelling storyteller, she is also a wonderful teacher, as she brings to her readers the nation's volatile history during the second half of the 20th century. It is also into this narrative that Lisa See presents one of the least Thanks to Netgalley and Simon&Shuster Canada for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review. Set on the Korean island of Jeju, The Island of Sea Women is a tale of friendship and forgiveness during the backdrop of various world events. Lisa See isn't just a compelling storyteller, she is also a wonderful teacher, as she brings to her readers the nation's volatile history during the second half of the 20th century. It is also into this narrative that Lisa See presents one of the least known massacres in modern history. The 4.3 uprising in Jeju that began on April 3rd, 1948. It is estimated that between 14,000- 30,000 people were killed as an anticommunist campaign that swept the island. An event that was buried for almost 60 years. It wouldn't be until 2006 that the South Korean government would acknowledge that this event took place. Although I read this book at a fairly slow pace( 5 day period rather than in one day/ night), I finish it feeling a great number of emotions. It's a first rate story that essentially follows two women who move from a friendship of childhood innocence and find themselves facing more and more turmoil as they grow older. I know that we all have a book list that never gets shortened, but I would certainly recommend that this book should be on your 2019 reading list.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    4.5★s Jeju Island, Korea in the 1930s was made up of huge teams of women – the haenyeo - the all-female diving collective who provided for their families during the seasons, while the men of the families cared for the children. Young-sook was born into the life. Her mother was chief of their diving group, guiding them into the perfect places for the best catch. As Young-sook began her diving life as a baby diver, she had Mi-ja, her best friend, by her side. Together they learned the craft under 4.5★s Jeju Island, Korea in the 1930s was made up of huge teams of women – the haenyeo - the all-female diving collective who provided for their families during the seasons, while the men of the families cared for the children. Young-sook was born into the life. Her mother was chief of their diving group, guiding them into the perfect places for the best catch. As Young-sook began her diving life as a baby diver, she had Mi-ja, her best friend, by her side. Together they learned the craft under the guidance and care of Young-sook’s mother. Mi-ja and Young-sook had very different backgrounds, but to the friends, it meant nothing. As the years moved on, the Japanese occupation, then WWII and the Korean War filtered through their lives. It wasn’t until both Young-sook and Mi-ja were married with children of their own that the horrors of the Korean war hit them, and their lives changed in an instant… The Island of Sea Women was (to my mind) a little slow to start, but it soon became unputdownable, and I was swept along for the ride. Author Lisa See has written a completely involving novel which covers the horrid events of the Jeju uprising; the dreadful cruelty of the South Koreans and the brutal deaths of many of the island’s population. All these events were blended into the historical novel, The Island of Sea Women in such a way that I wondered for a minute if I was reading nonfiction. Also, the history of the island’s women and the haenyeo was fascinating. All in all, a fabulous novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. Highly recommended. With thanks to Simon & Schuster AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nadia - on a break

    4.5 stars Have you ever heard about the matriarchal society led by Haenyeo? No?! Well, me neither... until I read The Island of Sea Women. Haenyeo are female divers from the Korean island Jeju. Known for their independent spirit, strong will and bravery, the haenyeo are representative of the matriarchal society on Jeju. Society where having a daughter is a blessing because she and the mother can provide for the family while men stay at home and look after the children! I absolutely loved and was f 4.5 stars Have you ever heard about the matriarchal society led by Haenyeo? No?! Well, me neither... until I read The Island of Sea Women. Haenyeo are female divers from the Korean island Jeju. Known for their independent spirit, strong will and bravery, the haenyeo are representative of the matriarchal society on Jeju. Society where having a daughter is a blessing because she and the mother can provide for the family while men stay at home and look after the children! I absolutely loved and was fascinated by the world of the fearless and determined Korean women diving in an ice-cold sea to feed their families. The story in the latest Lisa See novel follows the lifetime of Young-sook starting in 1938 when she is a little girl learning the diving skills among a Haeyono collective led by her mother. Reading the book was like reading a memoir and I was kind of expecting the author to say in the acknowledgement that the story is based on a real person's life. That's not the case but the story is very powerful and thought provoking nonetheless. What's real is the historical events incorporated in the story such as the atrocious massacre at Bukchon or division of Korea after the WWII. This is a stunning historical fiction novel that made me wonder what it would be like to live in a world with a matriarchal family structure, in a world ruled by women. A must read for 2019! Many thanks to the publisher for my review coy in exchange for an honest review.

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