A fascinating glimpse into a unique society and the women who comprise its backbone alongside a tale of friendship, betrayal, and eventual forgiveness.
This book was 5 star wonderful! Such a true to life story about two girls who grow up on Jehu island off the coast of Korea. When they become old enough, they become divers. I can't remember the Korean word that says what they are. They dive down into the cold, dark ocean for seafood that is sold for money and eaten by them and their families. In the beginning, all of Korea is a possession of Japan. So when they sell their seafood, they pretty much get only a small percentage of the sale price. When they are old enough, they go to other countries as divers and earn more money. Some of the countries are China and Eastern Russia. The story follows the two girls friendships until one of them gets married before the other. Later, after the Japanese are defeated in WW2, the victors, America and Russia decide that Korea should become an independent nation. But Russia insists on dividing Korea in two, with them influencing what becomes North Korea and America influencing what becomes South Korea. You would think this would bring easier times to the two women, but Korea goes through MAJOR bad, bad times on their way to independence. While you are reading, remember that this book is based on true circumstances. There is an island called Jehu and it is known for it's diving women. Look it up on the internet. And put in the Korean word for the diving women into the internet also.
Lisa See has come up with another winner in "The Island of Sea Women." The book is set over generations in the island of Jeju in Korea. The story revolves around two young women, Mi-Ja and Young-sook who work together in their women's all-female diving collective. It is interesting to read about the matriarchal society which nevertheless values sons. The women respect the sea and as Young-sook's mother says, "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." This is a book about love, friendship, family, and work ethics and ties everything together really well. A must read.
Absolutely outstanding historical novel. I had never heard of the sea women of Korea and found this book riveting. It is full of historical detail and information about this fascinating culture of women. It is a moving story of women and family but so much more. I read it over the space of two days and was sorry when it ended. After reading the last page and closing the book I cried for a while, overwhelmed by the suffering and hardships of these women. But I tell you what, they were/are some invincible, heroic and stoic humans. Wow. I had to put the rest of Lisa See's books on my reading list. I can't stop thinking about the characters in this book. Korea is an amazing country with an amazing history. (I also went on Google maps to look around the island of Jeju and found those black rock walls that feature so prominently in the book. Wow, loved the tour of the coastline on Google maps!)
If you liked the friendship in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and you love the ocean, pick this up. There are some incredibly sad parts and some beautiful descriptions of the haenyeo life and culture that will probably be gone in the next twenty years (UNESCO lists it as an intangible cultural heritage).
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