The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa SeeThe Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See

The Island of Sea Women: A Novel

byLisa See

Paperback | March 5, 2019

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A new novel from Lisa See, the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, about female friendship and family secrets on a small Korean island.

Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger.

Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. The Island of Sea Women is an epoch set over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, 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 and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.
Lisa See was born in Paris but grew up in Los Angeles, spending much of her time in Chinatown. She is of Chinese decent. Her first book, On Gold Mountain: The One Hundred Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family (1995), was a national bestseller and a New York Times Notable Book. The book traces the journey of Lisa's great-grandfathe...
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Title:The Island of Sea Women: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 9 × 6.12 × 1 inPublished:March 5, 2019Publisher:ScribnerLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1982117206

ISBN - 13:9781982117207

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! This is my first time reading anything by Lisa See, The Island of Sea Women released earlier this month and was my introduction to HF taking place in Korea. Taking place on a small island off the coast of Korea this book opened my eyes to the vast history and extraordinary events that were totally unfamiliar to me. Following the lives of best friends, Mi-ja and Young-sook, the author drew from the pages of history to weave a wonderful story. Beginning in the 1930s the country goes through so much as does the relationship of these 2 girls/women. I learned so much with this read. Having never heard of a haenyeo before I found it fascinating that such an occupation existed. The Japanese occupation and other atrocities of war gave a vivid picture of the struggles and hardships the residents faced. The research into this book was evident and the author notes wonderful - yes pages of them and well worth the read. The Island of Sea Women is a story of friendship, survival, relationships and so much more. Definitely an author I will read more of and highly recommend to those who like HF off the beaten track.
Date published: 2019-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Historical Story Lisa See has done it again. She's brought us into a real place, with real people, whom have largely kept away from mass society, and told a story that needs to be told. Similar to [book:The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane|25150798], See takes us on journey that spans many decades on a small island in Korea called Jeju. The Island of Sea Women is a thought provoking, emotional story about the women in a culture that has all but disappeared today. Spanning from a time of island prosperity, to WWII, to the Korea War, to present day; See tells a story that is important, if horrifying at times, and a history that largely hasn't been told up until now. Women's Culture The Island of Sea Women shows a true life female dominant culture that existed prior to WWII. The women do all the work, while the men watch the babies (post breast feeding months). The women manage the money, decisions and basic household needs; plus they generate the income for said household needs by swimming in the depths of the Yellow Sea (that is a part of the Pacific Ocean). This is the haenyeo culture as it once was. And while the women are perhaps worn out, and a disproportionate amount of work falls to them; I can't help (as a female) but feel proud of them for being in control of so much and having seemingly unlimited strength. This is the focus of the first third of The Island of Sea Women. We learn about haenyeo culture, island life, the prosperity and dangers of scavenging the sea, and the resilience of these women, who literally survive hypothermic temperatures to feed their families. However, early on See reminds us that this is not all a grand paradise and so the first of many deaths to come occurs. Did you know about the Korean Island of Jeju's genocide? I certainly had no idea about JeJu's awful history following WWII and leading into the Korea War. The reason for that is explained by See; the government literally had a ban on discussing the events of the 4.3 incident. As though not talking about it means it never happened. It is believed more than 10% of the island population were systematically wiped out. The worst of this piece of history is that the massacre was undertaken largely by their own people due to their fear. We experience this time period through the eyes of our leading lady and it is beyond devastating. Not for the faint of heart, and yet such an important story to tell; especially given that up until the 1990's these stories were not told to anyone! Let this be a lesson to us that silence does not erase the past. Consent, Motherhood and Infertility All three are things that every society on Earth has had to contend with. There is a huge emphasis on having children in this culture and it pains me (as a childless woman) to see those whom cannot conceive or carry to term suffer socially and emotionally. While above I have emphasized the power the women have in their households; it is only once they are married that this happens. And then only if the husband permits it. So the men still hold the ability to dominate the lives of these women. From beatings to forced consent (asking the question, is marriage consent to sex? In this culture the answer would be yes...) to physical and emotional abuse; the men knew how to break these women down and we see the limited options available to those who are deemed social pariah. Always Right As a Canadian a piece of me is always frustrated that there are places in the world where people believe their values are 'correct' or 'better' than others. Sorry all, but no country has proven their belief of this over and over in history as often as the Americans. And here we see them strong arming democracy (as if being told who to vote for is democracy!), taking away rights, withholding food and other limiting behaviours in order to make a culture and community more like themselves. It's so sad. Thankfully Lisa See tells the story with a lyrical beauty that at least allows the reader to understand that many people thought they were 'doing the right thing'. Yet See still shows us how horribly wrong the foreign helpers truly were. Grudges and Forgiveness Lisa See does what she does best and brings us into a time period different from our own; and within the minds of a group of women whose strength are beyond any I've ever imagined, including that of the Amazonian women. We experience an internal struggle, unlike any other I've read of, with our leading lady regarding forgiveness. Are there acts which are unforgivable? Does forgiveness truly set us free? Does a grudge hurt those who harbour it most? This was perhaps the most in-depth and critical portrayal on forgiveness I've ever read. As we (occasionally) leap forward in the narrative to the last years of our leading lady's life it is plain to see that time does not heal all wounds. It helps that for the reader we've just read the awful events and so the years that have passed in the story are meaningless to us; just as they appear to be for our elderly lady. Thus allowing us to really internalize the struggle to forgive. I found myself reflecting on my own grudges over the years and evaluating the 'substance' behind them. Overall This is an amazing book on so many levels. See once again brings us into a culture that few know about. Her research and commitment to telling an accurate historical and cultural story are unparalleled to any other historical author. And while we are reading a fictionalization of history each of her characters and events feels so real. This allows the reader to really feel the cultural implications that resulted from the loss of the time period. I have never had a desire to go to anywhere in Korea until now. I know have a strong wish to see the Island of Jeju, walk the memorial park and look upon the sea (as I'm terrified of water and cannot swim) that so many brave women swam (and died in) to provide their families with essential live-giving food and income. As Jeju now relies on tourism as it's primary economic driver; visitors are sought after to keep the island alive. Every girl and woman on Earth could benefit from reading this story and gaining courage, strength and understanding from a legion of women whom are nearly forgotten. I'm so glad that Lisa See brought their story forward and shared it in this literary gem. Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Date published: 2019-05-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An interesting history I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. Thank you to Netgalley, to the Author and to the Publisher. I have read a number of books by Lisa See, and they have all been really good, this one is no different. This history of the haenyeo and of the island of Jeju was very interesting, and I loved the parts in the book when they were diving. The story Mi-ja and Young-sook was deep and tragic, but I felt that it dragged a bit. I would absolutely recommend this book.
Date published: 2019-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Poignant, absorbing, and impactful! The Island of Sea Women is a heart-wrenching, pensive tale that sweeps you into a country ravaged by Japanese Colonialism, WWII invasion, American occupation, rebellion, oppression, political upheaval, and economic instability. The story is set on Jeju Island from the 1930s to present day and is a generational tale of friendship, grief, sorrow, guilt, history, family, culture, courage, loss, hope, sisterhood, as well as the responsibilities, life, and indomitable spirit of the haenyeo. The prose is vivid and eloquent. The characters are diligent, resilient, brave, and authentic. And the plot is a skillfully crafted read that moves seamlessly from past to present as it unravels all the personalities, struggles, atrocities, dangers, motivations, and complex relationships within it. The Island of Sea Women is truly a perfect blend of historical facts, compelling fiction, and palpable emotion. It’s a beautifully depicted, fascinating, heartbreaking, unforgettable tale that does a remarkable job of highlighting See’s incredible knowledge and passion for a time and place that is often unknown, forgotten or overlooked.
Date published: 2019-03-05