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The Island of Sea Women

A Novel
Written by: Lisa See
Narrated by: Jennifer Lim
Length: 13 hrs and 22 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (43 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A new novel from Lisa See, the New York Times best-selling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, about female friendship and family secrets on a small Korean island.

Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends who come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger.

Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. The Island of Sea Women is an epoch set over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War, and its aftermath, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous, physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story - one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them - The Island of Sea Women introduces listeners to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

©2019 Lisa See (P)2019 Simon & Schuster

What the critics say

"Narrator Jennifer Lim underscores the multiple layers of this audiobook about two friends who grew up in Jeju Island, Korea...  Lim's expressive delivery highlights protagonist Young-sook's personality and complex feelings... Lim's clear and sensitive portrayals, complete with believable accents, make it easy for listeners to keep track of the characters." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Wise words

This story has given me a want to learn more about their culture and an appreciation for the wisdom that comes with years of life and hardship. Ours elderly deserve more respect.

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Beautiful account of friendship and history.

Lisa See always manages to bring history and distant lands to life through the stories of women. This book set on Jeju island had me fascinated by the lives of the Haenyeo women. I love a book that can teach me a piece of history - the little known (to me) struggles between wwII and the Korean war for the people of Jeju. By telling the story through the eyes of a strong, fierce woman, through her family, friendships, traditions and her heart, the historical facts become real and not just dates in books. My heart wrenched by her losses and lifted by her joy... Young Sook felt like a kindred soul. I highly recommend this and ant book by Lisa See.

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Lisa See strikes again :)

Lisa See never disappoints if you need a thorough story with magnificent characters, so real you could touch them. Snow Flower & the Secret Fan is still my favorite of hers, but this is a VERY close second. loved it!

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Lisa See is a treasure

I’m a huge Lisa See fan and The Island of Sea Women did not disappoint.
See thoroughly does her homework and research into the haenyeo culture of Jeju Island in Korea, that of these robust sea women. I had never heard of this matriarchal society, and my eyes were opened to a whole piece of history I knew nothing about. The story is beautifully crafted and you fall in love with the characters as she weaves her lyrical prose.Historical Fiction at its best!!!

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Too much textbook, too little story

I was so disappointed with this book, following the amazing “Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane”.
I returned this book at about the quarter point. It was like listening to a reading of a textbook with a little bit of story thrown in.
I hear the book is supposed to get better about halfway through, but I just couldn’t make it that far. The narrator’s voice was grating to my ears, and I didn’t think I could listen to hours more without at least enjoying the story.

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  • syddie
  • 2019-08-10

The Narrator Ruins This Book.

The narrator reads this book like she’s dying for her last breath. She reads it so quickly, rushed, straight through, high-toned and without need for a breath. She has the mind to add dramatics to the characters, adding enough shake to the voice to denote an older person, sounding snarly for an obvious “bad” character, but it all just sounds like a straight script read-through, all rushed and careless. It had none of the presence and calm I expected for a book about the sea and the women who’ve lived in it. Listening to the narrator you feel yourself also holding your breath, rushed, almost panicked, and not at all at ease of listening to an otherwise good book. This book is not a great audible choice, not with this narrator. It’s better to just buy the book and read it.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • H. GY
  • 2019-05-13

Narration was so bad I didn’t finish

This seems like a good book to read. The narrator was a terrible choice for this book. Somehow a New Jersey(ish) twang doesn’t fly with this novel. The story was interesting though.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Louise Ritchie
  • USA
  • 2019-03-25

Wonderful historical fiction

Reading this is a captivating way to learn about a matriarchal society that most westerners are not familiar with. I will remember and ponder this story for a long time.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • mary krause
  • 2019-03-28

Overly dramatic read

I love Lisa See\s stories and this one is no exception. However the read on this is too dramatic. It takes away from the story. The readers diction is great and she pronounces the Korean well but I really would like to hear this read with a softer style.

40 of 44 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Kenmore, WA, United States
  • 2019-04-12

I have been to Jejue

This book had a lot of meaning for me. First and foremost I visited the island of Jejue in August of 2018. I went to the museum which honors the Sea Women. I recognized many of the places mentioned in the story, even to the small island of Udo. Because of this familiarity the story held a lot of rich meanings. The narration of the female diver/gir/wife/grandmother hit several fine points which enhanced the story. The specifics of living under the rule of Japan, and then the rule of post war American Occupation, helped place many things into perspective. This was a way of life which is going, or is already, extinct. I thank the author for a wonderful book and the narrator for the heartfelt meanings of the spoken word.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • James
  • 2019-03-23

a breath, a breath, a breath

another wonderful insightful book by lisa see. her books enable you to make new best friends, understand other cultures, realize that everyone that walks the face of this earth has a backstory. if only we could understand more of those backstories: would we be a more compassionate society? when i read a lisa see book i again recognize what a privileged life i live- no i am not rich, no i am not without problems, but my issues are insignificant compared to the cold water divers who still manage to laugh and support each other, their families, and their communities. it inspires me to do no less.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Regina
  • 2019-06-16

Just missed being great.

I have read a number of books by Lisa See and have always enjoyed them greatly, while learning a lot. This one didn't hit the same note. At times it felt like a history text book, not a novel. Yes, horrible things occurred at the hands of foreign governments, and we all need to know that and remember it. But I often felt like I was listing to a mandatory lecture for a school credit. And it is difficult in an audio book to just skim sections, although I did hit the 30 second forward on my Apple app a few times. Also, the narration wasn't pleasing. Finally, reading the book in print might improve the experience. I found it difficult to keep characters names straight.

However, I loved the introduction to a female centered society.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Bernard
  • 2019-05-18

1st Review in 15 years!

I've been a member of Audible for more than 15 years and I have not been touched so deeply by a book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Erika Retana
  • 2019-04-19

"To understand is to forgive"

Absolutely loved this book from beginning to end. Lisa See's stories always so refreshing. Friendship, hardship, love, suffering, disappointed and more in one book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Christine
  • 2019-04-03

I get the point

I love Lisa See's books and always learn something new. In this case it is two-fold: the Haenyeo culture and the political times of Korea in the 40's. I had to finally turn it off after it went on and on (and on and on) in great detail of the violence that ensued as a result of the political climate for which the story takes place. I just could not listen any more. Enough! Point taken. Unfortunately with audio books, you can't just "skim" to get past certain parts without the risk of losing a significant part of the plot.

14 of 19 people found this review helpful