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The Island of Sea Women

by Lisa See

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,6179010,783 (4.13)105
"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"--… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)
Set on the Korean island of Jeju, this multi-generational story spans a period of approximately 70 years, from the late 1930s to 2008. The novel follows the lives of two women in a fascinating matrifocal society who are haenyeo, elite women divers who can hold their breath for long periods and withstand cold water temperatures, and become caught up in the 4.3 Uprising against the Japanese occupiers in the late 1940s (another genocidal massacre largely unknown to the world) and the Korean War. The events strain the once-close relationship of the central characters, and the book explores betrayals and the difficulty of forgiveness both on the personal level and the political. Beautifully written, as all of Lisa See's works are. ( )
  bschweiger | Feb 4, 2024 |
Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that come from very different backgrounds. While working with the all-female diving collective, little do the two friends know that forces outside of their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.

The story evolves from when Mi-ja and Young-sook are young to when they become adults and eventually old age. Many things happen due to WWII and when the Japanese took over the island. There is tragedy and conflict but also friendship and good family relationships. This was interesting throughout but I didn’t always like Young-sook who was the main character. Overall, an enjoyable read. ( )
  gaylebutz | Feb 1, 2024 |
A fascinating story about the incredible strength of these Korean diving women. Sad but hopeful expertly woven tale between the past and present with a heartwarming glimpse of the future. ( )
  hellokirsti | Jan 3, 2024 |
Did not finish
  Carole46 | Dec 31, 2023 |
What a fantastic read! I knew nothing about the haenyeo divers of Korea or much about Korean history. The very well written book explores the lives in and out of the water of these women divers in depth while weaving in so many important historic events. ( )
  Suem330 | Dec 28, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)
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An old woman sits on the beach, a cushion strapped to her bottom, sorting algae that's washed ashore.
Quotations
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 moments. 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.
"Every woman who goes into the sea carries a coffin on her back. In this world, in the undersea world, we tow the burdens of this hard life."
Sometimes you must experience heartache to have a treasured result.
For a tree that has many branches, even a small breeze will shake some loose.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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"--

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