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The Island of Sea Women

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  866 ratings  ·  240 reviews
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
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Scribner
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Donna Albano Life is hard. And yet these amazing women travel the world and raise children who go on to succeed. This book is historical fiction and many of those…moreLife is hard. And yet these amazing women travel the world and raise children who go on to succeed. This book is historical fiction and many of those things really happened.

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4.29  · 
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 ·  866 ratings  ·  240 reviews

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Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Update: Happy Publication Day! (Today, March 5th, 2019)

Haenyeo is the Japanese 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 fo
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical fiction fans
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. *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
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
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 ...more
Dorie  - Traveling Sister :)

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
Elyse Walters
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“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,
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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-so
"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

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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 app
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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 deta ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lisa See is a treasure and her books are always a pleasure for me to read. I look forward to a new book from her with anticipation. She writes some of the best historical fiction I have ever read and I have learned so much about different Asian cultures and traditions while enjoying her beautifully crafted stories. The prose is lyrical and entrancing and I love it!

This book is set on the island of JeJu in Korea before and after it was split into North and South. The focus is on the lives of Youn
One of the things I enjoy most about historical fiction is learning something new that I never knew before. I've been to Korea twice this year in my reading--the first being Pachinko which dealt with the prejudice of the Japanese towards Koreans.

This is a story of friendship and forgiveness. It is set on the island of Jeju and tells the story of the haenyeo--the women of the island who dive into the sea to harvest its rich abundance.

The book begins in 2008 and centers on Young-sook, a famous g
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Island of Sea Women is an interesting look at Jeju, an island off the coast of South Korea. Starting in the late 1930s and running through the mid-1970s, all bracketed by sections spanning the course of a few days in 2008, Lisa See tells the story of Young-Sook and Mi-ja, unlikely friends who spend years training for and then becoming haenyeo*, female only divers who were taught how to harvest the sea using careful techniques that involved respecting the ocean's seasons, specialized breathin ...more
Kate Olson
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a stunning story! I have loved every book that Lisa See has written, and this one is no exception. Based on real historical events, and the real matriarchal society on the Korean island of Jeju, this book taught me so much and made me think deeply about friendship and forgiveness. I can't recommend this highly enough, and I think it would make a fabulous book club choice. I listened to it via audiobook from Audible and the narration was excellent. I read the author's note in a paper copy of ...more
The Korean island of Jeju is known for haenyeo – all-female diving collective. And that’s what this story brings. It is immersed in rich culture, where roles of men and women are reversed: women being providers and men taking care of the children and household.

The story begins in early 1930s with two young girls.

Young-sook with her mother and grandmother support the family, while the father takes care of the younger siblings.

Mi-ja loses both her parents and lives with her aunt and uncle, who mi
Paul Fulcher
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley, 2019
“You are a haenyeo! Never for one moment believe you are unworthy.”

The stunningly beautiful 제주도 (Jeju Island) is perhaps my favourite place to visit, which I do annually, perhaps more in future as my in-laws are building a hotel there. One of the many unique features are the 해녀 (haenyeo), the women divers, who combine the three elements (삼다도) of the island, 여자, 바람, 돌, women, wind and rocks (see Jeju is also acknowledges for lacking three things: beggars, t
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lisa See provides well-researched history of the Jeju women divers and shows much respect for them. I was awed by the traditions, rituals and how the ongoing Japan/Korea conflict affected the Jeju over the years. The roles of men and women are different from what I am familiar with. The women are the ‘bread winners’, divvying up the day’s diving spoils for their families, while the husbands are home to raise children. Jeju work is hard and done in incredibly difficult conditions like sub-freezin ...more
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Poignant, absorbing, and impactful!

The Island of Sea Women is a heartwrenching, 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
Rating: 4.5 stars rounded down to --- 4 well-researched and harrowing stars

Mi-ja and Young-sook meet as young girls in the beginning of Lisa See’s new historical fiction book titled, “The Island of Sea Women”. We follow them both through girlhood to old age; from their meeting in the 1930’s then across the following 6 or 7 decades. Young-sook is the narrator, and what a story she has to tell. She and Mi-Ja live on the volcanic island of Jeju which is off the southern coast of what is now South K
RoseMary Achey
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lisa See has another future Best Seller! The Island of Sea Women is so reminiscent of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan as two female friends experience a tragedy that forever separates them and creates a void in their hearts nothing can replace. Lisa See takes us to the Korean island of Jeju home of the famous women divers. This book will be available March 5, 2019.
Mel (Epic Reading)
Jan 28, 2019 marked it as up-next
Shelves: arc-netgalley
Yes!!! Thank you Simon and Schuster! Just received an eARC of this beauty. If it’s anything like her last release it will be a gem to read.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: edelweiss, netgalley
The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See is the story of a girlhood friendship crushed and buckled by shifting political and cultural sands.

Set on a small volcanic island in Korea, and spanning from colonialism under the Japanese through the post-WWII division of the country and the resulting purge of Communist sympathizers in the South, the novel is a dazzling exploration of a little-known culture.

And it is also a testament to the strength of women.

In the 1930s, orphaned Mi-ja, daughter of a Korea
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lisa See has arrived quite closer to the forms and core issues of her earliest novels. Which is a very good thing, IMHO. Especially the issue of girlhood to women life friendships in the Asian/ Eastern culture. One that is predominantly within a society and strongly within religious ideologies that are held upon patriarchy structural identity. Which also were so central to Snow Flower. And the self-identity dichotomies of Peony too.

Because I have just too many thoughts about this one all told- a
Abbie | ab_reads
Feb 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Thank you @scribnerbooks for gifting me a copy of this novel to review! I’ve never read any of Lisa See’s previous novels, but I was very pleasantly surprised to see the amount of research she puts into her books - the acknowledgements show that she’s gone to great lengths to make sure it’s fairly historically accurate, even though it is fiction.
Like with The Poppy War, there are some seriously disturbing scenes in this book, as it takes place on Jeju Island, off the coast of South Korea, under
Susan Johnson
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley
It's amazing the power of a book can have on a life and I am not talking about this one. Somewhere some nameless bureaucrat decided that the citizens of a Korean island, Jeju, needed copies of the book, Heidi, set in the Swiss Alps. Copies were distributed and for some reason the citizens fell in love with it. They sat around and read it as families and discussed it at work. It made a difference in people's lives. I just loved that story.

I have always admired Lisa See's books but I struggled w
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC of Island of Sea Women by the publisher and offer this honest review:

The Island of of Sea Women is Lisa See's best novel yet. Lisa See writes the story of the friendship of two Jeju girls and how their lives intersect, diverge, and intersect once again. It's a beautiful story with rich characters who I connected with emotionally. Not only does See tell their story, but she also writes about the matrifocal Haenyeo community and the history of the remote island of Jeju, off the
You may know that The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane was one of my favorite books of 2017. So I was so excited to get approved for an ARC of See’s next novel.

Wow did this book open up my eyes to historical events that I did not know about. See uses a dual timeline, flashing back following Yong-Sook’s life being a sea diver on the matrifocal island of Jeju off of Korea. Yong-Sook also has a very close friend Mi-ja, who is like a sister to her growing up. But things change quickly as they approach m
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it
This is my 3rd book I’ve read by this author. It isn’t my favorite book by her. I found this book to be a little slow in some areas. But a very informative as historical fiction.
This book takes you through generations of women that work as haenyeo, which is an all female divers collective. They are the bread winners of the family, which is now a dying profession, while the men stay home taking care of the children. I love how having a girl is celebrated in this book! Majority books I’ve read it
Karen R.
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lisa See is a good storyteller. Her books always transport you to a far away place and time, and The Island of Sea People is no exception.
This story follows young Korean women who harvest the sea by free diving, a specialized and harrowing skill. We see the story through back and forth flashes from Young-Sook, following her from the 1930’s through the 2000s.
Jeju island is not untouched by the aftermath of WW 2 or the Korean War. As a matriarchal society, the island feels every heartache and los
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Lisa See is a Chinese-American author. Her books include Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005), Dragon Bones, and On Gold Mountain. She was named the 2001 National Woman of the Year, by the Organization of Chinese American Women. She lives in Los Angeles.

“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.” 1 likes
“Fall down eight times, stand up nine. For me, this saying is less about the dead paving the way for future generations than it is for the women of Jeju. We suffer and suffer and suffer, but we also keep getting up. We keep living. You would not be here if you weren't brave. Now you need to be braver still.” 1 likes
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