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 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 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.
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.
5 starsThis 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 SPOLIER 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.
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 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.
YetHaenyeo 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.
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 outwith AMAZING PHOTOS that can be found online The older women are women, I would enjoy sitting with sharing tea get to know them 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 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 Goodjust 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 This book was soo good and sad and did I say good It s now on one of my wishlists Mel
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 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.
75I 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.
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.
I received an advanced copy of this book from Scribner through both Edelweiss and NetGalley.
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A Mesmerizing New Historical Novel O, The Oprah Magazine From Lisa See, The Bestselling Author Of The Tea Girl Of Hummingbird Lane, About Female Friendship And Devastating Family Secrets On A Small Korean IslandMi Ja And Young Sook, Two Girls Living On The Korean Island Of Jeju, Are Best Friends Who 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 DangerDespite Their Love For Each Other, Mi Ja And Young Sook Find It Impossible To Ignore Their Differences The Island of Sea Women Takes Place Over Many Decades, Beginning During A Period Of Japanese Colonialism In The S And S, Followed By World War II, The Korean War, 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 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 Forces Outside Their Control Will Push Their Friendship To The Breaking Point This Vivid Thoughtful And Empathetic Novel The New York Times Book Review Illuminates A World Turned Upside Down, One Where The Women Are In Charge And The Men Take Care Of The Children A Wonderful Ode To A Truly Singular Group Of Women Publishers Weekly , The Island of Sea Women Is A Beautiful Story About The Endurance Of Friendship When It S Pushed To Its Limits, And You Will Love It Cosmopolitan