Monday, April 12, 2021

2021 - 56 - The Island of Sea Women; Lisa See



TITLE/AUTHOR:  The Island of Sea Women; Lisa See

PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Audio

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2019

GENRE: Fiction / Historical

FORMAT:  (audio download) /LENGTH:  / 13 hours and 22 min

SOURCE: Library download

SETTING(s):  Korean island of Jeju


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  An interesting and detailed piece of historical fiction about a group of women in a culture and period of time I knew very little about.

BRIEF REVIEW:   Lisa See takes readers to the South Korean island of Jeju in 1930 where we meet best friends Young-sook and Mi-ja. The young girls come from very different backgrounds with Mi-ja's father is considered a Japanese collaborator during its occupation.  The friends grow up in a culture where the women support the family while the men care for the very young children and cook. The women work as sea divers known as "haenyeo", catching all kinds of sea life to sell.  The females begin training as baby divers and the friends are preparing for their first dive with Young-sook's mother being the lead-diver of the group. 

This a story rich in culture, customs and traditions. There is so much material covered in this one novel that at times it felt a little overwhelming. The story included details of a massacre which was horrific and I was not familiar with.  Although the story begins in 1930 it continues through WWII, the Korean war and up through 2008 with the advent of modern technology.  The author's research is extensive and well done.  I especially enjoyed the story of the "haenyeo women" which I found fascinating and, I also loved the friendship among the women and how resilient they seemed.  The political climate and brutality of war was difficult to read about as there was incidents of rape and suicide.  

This book took me about a week to finish not because it wasn't good but more because the story seemed so foreign. The audio is narrated by Jennifer Lim who did a great job but, I did find myself stopping to research names, places and more about "haenyeo women".   This book was recommended to me by a few woman who loves historical fiction - definitely fascinating but not an easy, comfort sort of read. It would make a good book group discussion story IMO.

RATING:  4/5 stars

 

18 comments:

  1. I am hit or miss with See's books although I've heard from many this one is pretty solid.

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    1. I read all of her earliest books and loved them but, then I missed a few in more recent years. I'd like to catch up.

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  2. I feel the same way when I read non fiction. It becomes a series of starts and stops when I stumble upon names, places, words I'm curious about.

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    1. I do like when I learn something when reading fiction. It's a bonus!

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  3. This sounds interesting even though I'm not a big historical fiction reader. Bet my sister would love it!

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    1. JoAnn, I was never a historical fiction fan but this year or since the pandemic I've tried to change things up and I'm enjoying it. Trying to find stories that are not ALL about WWII though.

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  4. I've been trying to decide whether to add this to my list or not. Thanks for your thoughts about it.

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    1. It's a little heavier than I had expected but, I liked that I learned things in the process.

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  5. I've taken a note to try this book in print vs audio - it's been a while since I've read a Lisa See book and I'd love to revisit.

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    1. Yes, although the audio was very good, I had to stop to look up things. I did have the eGalley as well but, primarily listened.

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  6. It does sound a bit difficult, good though.

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  7. I always end up loving Lisa See's books. She does make me work a bit but I learn much I would otherwise not have known.

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  8. This one sounds complicated enough that I would likely find it difficult to absorb as an audiobook. I really have to be careful in choosing audiobooks so that they don't leave me with a frustrated feeling that I've wasted my time.

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  9. I really like Lisa See's books and hopefully will get to this book one day soon!

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  10. I love Lisa See's books and thought this one was terrific. I still think about it occasionally.

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  11. I have this one on my shelf and really do want to read it but I think I might put it on hold until I'm in the mood for a book that really makes me think. I'm more reaching for light reads right now but this sounds absolutely wonderful!

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  12. I overlooked this review earlier this week. I’m so glad I found it! And I’m so glad you enjoyed this book which I loved.

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  13. Yeah I think the foreign names make me want to get the print edition of this one ... as the audio might confuse me. I do plan to read it! The diving life sounds quite something.

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