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The Island of Sea Women

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  16,593 ratings  ·  2,753 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
Paperback, 365 pages
Published May 1st 2019 by Simon & Schuster AU (first published March 19th 2019)
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Rachel Brittain If you are looking for a light, easy read that makes you feel good, this may not be the book for you. If you want a moving story that illustrates the…moreIf you are looking for a light, easy read that makes you feel good, this may not be the book for you. If you want a moving story that illustrates the strength of these amazing women through the challenges of a hard, real life, stick with it. You won't be sorry.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Janis Her son works in a computer business in Los Angeles.
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4.22  · 
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Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
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
Diane S ☔
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lor-2019
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 ...more
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 🖤🐶🐺🐾
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
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 Young-so
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
Elyse Walters
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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,
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
Lucy Langford
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

“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
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
"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
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brenda - Host of Traveling Sisters & Friends
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
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
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.”

The women are the providers for the family. Fathers, h
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

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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
♥ 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
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
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 ...more
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
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Historical Fiction.
“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
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
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, kindle
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 lea

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
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall: A coming of age story set on the seas of occupied Korea. This story is about the long history of the haenyeo (female divers) of Jeju island and follows from WWII through present day. Heart breaking, eye opening, and overall a wonderful, albeit quite heavy read 7/10
*Warning to individuals sensitive to: violence, murder, rape, and male abuse of power.

The Good:
“Jeju is her home, an island known for Three Abundances: wind, stones and women.”

So beings this heartbreaking story of family, fri
Lisa Wolf
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Island of Sea Women is a gorgeous, though-provoking, emotionally powerful read. We first meet Young-sook as an old woman on the beach in Jeju in 2008, thinking back on her life and feeling somewhat amused by the tourists who now flock to her island, viewing the elders of the haenyeo diving women as a living piece of history and a novelty. When she is approached by a visiting family who seem to know who she is, Young-sook is thrust back into her long-ago memories.

We're reintroduced to Young-s
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jeju Island is just off the southern coast of Korea. It's strategic location made it a target, first for the Japanese and later the Americans, neither of whom treated the people with kindness or respect. The slightest infraction could mean death.
Jeju is also an island of strong, determined and independent women. The women work as haenyeo divers, withstanding the ocean's harsh conditions to harvest abalone, octopus and other treasures of the sea. The work requires strength, determination and cour
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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.

“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.” 13 likes
“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.” 6 likes
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