The Island of Sea Women

A Novel
By: Lisa See
Narrated by: Jennifer Lim
Length: 13 hrs and 22 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (3,067 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

Critic Reviews

"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 listeners say about The Island of Sea Women

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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.

15 people found this helpful

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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.

14 people found this helpful

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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.

24 people found this helpful

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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.

21 people found this helpful

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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.

10 people found this helpful

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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.

48 people found this helpful

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"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.

8 people found this helpful

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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.

14 people found this helpful

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Korean history lesson

This was a disappointment. The other books I've read by Lisa See have focused on the bonds of female friendship, and while this story does have that as its central theme, the characters get lost in all the other information about Korea, sea divers, and matriarchal society. The culture of the female sea divers was really interesting, and I wish the story had focused on them. As for the narration, it was much too dramatic at times.

5 people found this helpful

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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.

11 people found this helpful