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The Island of Sea Women: A Novel Hardcover – March 5, 2019
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"Regretting You" by Colleen Hoover
From New York Times bestselling author of It Ends with Us comes a novel about family, first love, grief, and betrayal that will touch the hearts of both mothers and daughters. | Learn more
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—New York Times Book Review
“Lisa See’s mesmerizing new historical novel…celebrates women’s strengths—and the strength of their friendships.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Painstakingly researched…deft…a powerful and essential story of humanity.”
—The Los Angeles Review of Books
"Compelling ... takes readers on a journey spanning generations — in this case 1938 to 2008 — as moments of cherished friendship, unspeakable tragedy and, in the end, a plot twist worthy of Raymond Chandler unfold."
"Lisa See is a New York Times bestselling author, a thorough researcher and a wonderful storyteller. In this novel, she seamlessly weaves history, tradition and culture into a heartfelt story about love and forgiveness. It’s an unforgettable read."
"I fell in love with the writing of bestselling and award-winning author Lisa See more than 10 years ago ... This novel introduces readers to the unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives."
"The most intriguing parts of the book are those that describe the lives of the haenyeo ... See reveals how perilous the work can be: One diver is almost killed by an octopus, and another drowns because of an abalone. Yet the women love the sense of freedom, competence and strength they find in the water."
—Tampa Bay Times
"Fascinating ... Readers will witness the fortitude of these women to transcend tragedy and find forgiveness."
—Christian Science Monitor, The Best Fiction Books of 2019
"In this bittersweet novel that spans more than 50 years, Lisa See tells the story of Mi-ja and Young-sook, two best friends who live in a kind of feminist utopia on a Korean island."
"For centuries on the Korean island of Jeju, Haenyeo women were trained to expand their lungs and go diving on the ocean floor to harvest seafood ... Mi-ja and Young-sook are best friends and Haenyeo divers, set to follow in their mothers' footsteps. But as they come of age during a tumultuous period in Korea's history, certain deep-rooted differences may tear them apart."
—Refinery29, Best Books of March 2019
"This beautiful story follows Mi-ja and Young-sook, friends from very different backgrounds who are members of an all-female diving group in Korea. Really, though, the book is about the endurance of friendship when it's pushed to its limits, and you (+ your BFF, when you lend it to her) will love it."
—Cosmopolitan, 15 Best Books of March 2019
“Compelling…[a] story of two best friends who come from very different families, and whose bond will be tested time and time again over the years.”
—LitHub.com, Most Anticipated Books of 2019
“A stupendous multigenerational family saga, See’s latest also provides an enthralling cultural anthropology highlighting the soon-to-be-lost, matriarchal haenyeo phenomenon and an engrossing history of violently tumultuous twentieth-century Korea. A mesmerizing achievement. See's accomplishment, acclaim, and readership continue to rise with each book, and interest in this stellar novel will be well stoked.”
—Booklist, starred review
“See perceptively depicts challenges faced by Koreans over the course of the 20th century, particularly homing in on the ways the haenyeo have struggled to maintain their way of life. Exposing the depths of human cruelty and resilience, See’s lush tale is a wonderful ode to a truly singular group of women.”
“On an island off the South Korean coast, an ancient guild of women divers reckons with the depredations of modernity from 1938 to 2008 in See's (The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, 2017, etc.) latest novel…. See did extensive research with primary sources to detail not only the haenyeo traditions, but the mass murders on Jeju beginning in 1948, which were covered up for decades by the South Korean government… It is a necessary book.”
“Lisa See excels at mining the intersection of family, friendship and history, and in her newest novel, she reaches new depths exploring the matrifocal haenyeo society in Korea, caught between tradition and modernization. This novel spans wars and generations, but at its heart is a beautifully rendered story of two women whose individual choices become inextricably tangled.”
—Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light and Small Great Things
"I was spellbound the moment I entered the vivid and little-known world of the diving women of Jeju. Set amid sweeping historical events, The Island of Sea Women is the extraordinary story of Young-sook and Mi-ja, of women’s daring, heartbreak, strength, and forgiveness. No one writes about female friendship, the dark and the light of it, with more insight and depth than Lisa See."
—Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings
"I loved The Island of Sea Women from the very first page. Lisa See has created an enthralling, compelling portrait of a unique culture and a turbulent time in history, but what's really remarkable about this novel is the characters—two women whose lifelong friendship is tested during impossibly difficult times. Compelling, heart-wrenching, and beautifully written, The Island of Sea Women will plunge you into a world and a story you've never read before and remind you how powerful women can and must be to survive."
—Kristin Hannah, author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.18 pounds
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1501154850
- ISBN-13 : 978-1501154850
- Product Dimensions : 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Scribner; 1st Edition (March 5, 2019)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #20,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Up to that point, I was already disappointed in this novel, and slogging on just to see how the conflict set up at the beginning is resolved. Novels that I really enjoy, typically play like a movie in my mind as I read, in full color. This one plays like a documentary in black and white. I’ve read some of Lisa See’s earlier books and thought they were kind of fun, but with this one, I feel absolutely no attachment to the characters, perhaps because it feels like the author is trying to cover too much ground and is intent on displaying the facts instead of letting me become immersed in the story.
This is not an entertaining novel, I get that. What I have a harder time with is that with all these glorifying reviews, it looks like readers have become so inured to descriptions of such an abominable nature that they just take it in stride, describe these passages as “difficult to read”, and gloss over it. That’s the scary part.
I have always admired Lisa See's books but I struggled with this one on several different levels. Yes, It was interesting story and I learned quite a bit but the violence in it was a real problem for me. At about 60% through I almost set it aside as it was so graphic. Yet I kept on and, in the end, I am glad I did.
It is the story of a matriarchal society where the women work as haenyeo divers. They dive in the ocean and harvest the sea's treasures including abalone and octopus. They have amazing body chemistry to withstand the cold and the hardship. The men stay home and tend the children and make light meals. Of course, it is not as good as it seems. Property is still in the man's name. They often take the women's wages and gamble and drink it away. As their daughters grow up they take over the child raising and food preparation and the men are left with nothing to do. As the women trudge home from a long day of sea harvesting, they come home and clean and cook and mind children. It's not as idyllic as it seems.
Because of Jeju's location, it has a long history of occupation first by the Japanese then the Americans. Both are cruel and there is massacre after massacre. Villages are burned and large burial grounds appear. Life is a constant struggle and they soon learn not to say anything because of all the informants to all the different competing military factions.
The story is told around two best friends's lives, Mi-ja and Young-sook. They grew up together and became divers and then their paths diverged after marriage and their struggles will break your heart. While I suspect most will be moved Young-sook, it is Mi-ja's story that grabbed my heart.
An interesting book that gave a glimpse into another way of life that I had no idea about before reading it.
Lisa’s books often cover a range of time periods in China, so this was a refreshing change that sweeps you away to Korea. I was involved with my characters, crying when they cried and laughing when they laughed.
Ms. See has once again managed to entwine an amazing tale of womanhood, survival, and courage into the historical wonders and atrocities that happened in a land and time far away. I regretted finishing the book, and at the same time, I am already planning to read it a second time very soon. Like all of Lisa’s books, this book is something you will want to add to your collection, so you can revisit the characters again and again.
Top reviews from other countries
The author paints vivid pictures of the undersea world from which these women historically scraped a living and the constant danger in which they worked. Naturally the Haenyeo rely on each other for their very lives so close bonds are formed and the book details the development of one such friendship and the way in which outside circumstances and a lack of understanding finally forced it to crumble, with a timely warning on the destructive power of misjudgment and lack of forgiveness.
My only niggles are that the Korean war of the 1950s is skated over when it surely must have had some impact on the life of Jeju and I would have liked to see tighter editing as there is quite a lot of repetition. Do we, for example, need to be told quite so many times of the triangular relationship between latrines, pigs and pork?
It grabs your attention when you realise early on that this is a subject you must be more educated about.
The emotions are palpable, whether a joyful account or one of fear destruction, and harboured hatred - the latter anchored inextricably to a senseless mass killing or could that have been the culmination of a much more innocuous threat from one friend to another?
A well constructed novel of educational value. Makes me want to read all of this authors other titles.