Historical fiction

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See


I was conflicted as to how I would rate this book as I set it down after reading. This is probably one of the few historical fiction books that I liked the historical part more than the fiction part. I will try to explain with more clarity once I go further into this review.

This is a story of a dying breed of women who undergo extreme physical hardship on a daily basis, these women dive for food and their livelihood. To them, this way of living is just a part of them. We are introduced to the Island of Jeju and the lives of the Haenyeo women in 2008. A lot of it has been reworked to suit the tourist trade but a few of the older ones remain with their stories. There is one such story that we are given access to, bit by bit with the picture becoming clearer. This was the fiction part of the tale and focuses on the atrocities that the families faced on a daily basis, I should have been more vested in the personal lives of the main family but I was more concerned about the growing and almost continuous unrest around them. It is rare for me to be more focused on the facts presented in a tale and although this is a good thing, I could not give it a full five stars because of this single reason, I would have rated it higher than the four stars I am giving it if any of the websites allowed such a thing.

The past story covers so many different ‘governments’ having a hand in how these people led their lives but not really assisting them in any fashion. It is hard to envision that humans caused such suffering but it harder to imagine the strength of those who manage a semblance of clarity or mental stability through it all. There are those who probably rise above all of this and lead a charge but this book is not about them. It is about the life on an isolated island rich in stories and song and hardworking women and how they dealt with what every decade threw at them. The story spans waters of different countries and the friendship of two girls who grew up learning to be the best Haenyeo  women they could. I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking to read about the history of a different part of the globe!

This book is set to release on 5th March and this was an ARC I got my hands on thanks to the publishers and NetGalley, the review is completely my own opinion.

Affiliate link to purchase: Book Depository

5 thoughts on “The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See”

  1. I really enjoyed the historical aspects as well and loved so much of this novel, but also felt a little conflicted about what was kept from us as readers until the end about Mi-ja. It turned Young-sook into a slightly unreliable narrator, which I guess so many people are in life by virtue of tragedies they encounter that forever taint their views of certain events, that they can never get over or find forgiveness in others for. I would have liked the friends to have confronted each other earlier, I felt like there was little time for reflect on what is revealed at the end, and yet it is so imperative to the theme of the novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, i completely agree! But the facts were so fascinating that their personal differences fell a little short especially considering both women’s life stories.


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