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Review: The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Title: The Island of Sea Women
Author: Lisa See
Year Published: 2019

Genre: Adult fiction (historical)
Pages: 261
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)South Korea

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Set on the Korean island of Jeju, The Island of Sea Women follows Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls from very different backgrounds, as they begin working in the sea with their village's all-female diving collective. Over many decades--through the Japanese colonialism of the 1930s and 1940s, World War II, the Korean War, and the era of cellphones and wet suits for the women divers--Mi-ja and young-sook develop the closest of bonds. Nevertheless, their differences are impossible to ignore: Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, forever marking her, and Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother's position leading the divers. After hundreds of dives and years of friendship, forces outside the their control will push their relationship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a unique and unforgetable culture, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children.

Review: I love the Lisa See books that I have read (Shanghai Girls, Dreams of Joy, China Dolls, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan) and so I was really looking forward to this one. And how cool is it that it's about an island that is run by the women?!

I also love the cover of this book. It really captures the subject and feeling of this novel. The two women at the heart of the story are wonderful friends, until they aren't ,and it is devastating what happens (I can't say any more). 

I loved learning about Korean culture, food, customs, and history. I loved the characters, the diving stories, and the sense of community. The history of the island of Jeju was so interesting; I had no idea they were colonized by the Japanese and controlled by the Americans or the role they played as a strategic island during World War II and the Korean War.

As with all of Lisa See's books, following the characters over long periods of time allows the reader to really get to know them and their communities, making her novels rich in many ways. This one artfully blends friendship and family, anger and forgiveness, with history and tradition.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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