FictionThe Island Of Sea Women by Lisa See

The Island Of Sea Women by Lisa See


A joint review but a short note from us individually:

S- I can’t remember the last time I deliberately avoided a book because I didn’t want to finish it. Forty pages left and I stopped carrying it round with me because I couldn’t bear the thought of it ending.

C- Soph insisted I read this so I split it between an audio and kindle read whilst by the pool. It was so transportive and vivid every time I swam I thought of the characters, their marriages, loves and friendships. It brought to life a world I could never have imagined, taught me about the horrific violence and atrocities committed against a nomadic group of people.

A novel told across two narratives — past and present — this book moved and educated us in equal measure. We are not sure we can do it justice but we will try our best.

Young-sook and Mi-ja live on Korea’s Jeju island. The former discovers the latter trying to steal from her family’s fields; Mi-Ja is the orphaned daughter of a Japanese collaborator. The two become inseparable and train to become part of an ancient all-female diving collective — the haenyo — but their lives will pull them apart in different directions. 

There is so much here to devour; an absolutely stunning portrayal of an incredible matriarchal society, where women are the providers through the bounty they bring home from the waters. An intricately conveyed friendship that will have you struggling to catch your breath when you hear the experiences that both of these girls go through. The backdrop of the challenges Korea faces as a nation, through the war and its aftermath — and how this will change the course of Young-sook and Mi-ja’s lives forever. What happens to them will leave you wondering what you would have — could have — done, if you’d been in their shoes. We still are…

This is the history you don’t get taught at school, told intimately through characters we became so attached to. It is beautiful and heartbreaking and this is a novel that will want to put in the hands of every reader you know. Needless to say, we adored it.

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