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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 (28 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

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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    5 out of 5 stars

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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    5 out of 5 stars
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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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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

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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  • 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.

34 of 36 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • 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.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • 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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Kerr506
  • Virginia, United States
  • 2019-05-01

Powerful Story but felt flat

This is a fascinating story based on true women sea divers. This, along with a lot of Korean history make for an excellent book. But alas for me the writing falls flat. Huge dramatic moments did not carry me away. I shed no tears. Also too much predictability. But I still recommend reading this as there is plenty to think about and to discuss. It held my attention throughout, though I admit I fast forwarded through some of the violent parts.
I did not like the narrator. I felt like she was reading for a young adult book. I may have liked this better with a different narrator.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • 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.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Cindy Tortorici
  • Portland, OR
  • 2019-07-15

i couldnt get into this book.

I struggled with this book. I'm not sure if it was the narrator or content. Ijust didn't care for the amount of detail yet there was so much story.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Linda
  • 2019-03-26

Love Lisa See, but not this book.

Lisa See is one of my favorite authors. I loved her last book, The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane. This book however, while interesting, learning about the women divers and some Korean history, did not grab me as her other books have. The story is ok, characters start strong, but some don’t develop enough. Not bad, overall, just not that memorable.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Katy
  • 2019-07-22

Not Lisa See’s best

I’ve listened to every one of Lisa See’s books and was a little disappointed with this one

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Mary Shanklin
  • 2019-07-11

Missed key details, narrator mediocre

Nuanced with character development and excellent selection.of a relatively under-reported historical period. Could have better built sense of place, ie. readers didn’t learn until book was almost over that sea waters in which women dove were 50+ degrees. What did the water pressure feel like at diver depths? How did safety measures improve over time? These questions are important because they are central to the theme. Getting a narrator as nuanced as the story would have helped too.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • smith182
  • 2019-07-01

Just ok

Really hard to keep up with all the characters. Loved learning about the women divers. Story felt way too long.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful