Set on the Island of Jeju, a small island off the coast of South Korea, the story follows Mi-ja and Young-sook. These two girls are from very different backgrounds, they begin working in the sea with their village's all-female diving collective. Over many decades -- through Japanese colonialism in the 1930-1940's, WWII, the Korean War, to modern day -- the two girls develop the closest of bonds. After years of friendship, hundreds of dives, circumstances push their relationship to the breaking point. I had a very hard time getting into this book at first and actually stopped for several months. I will say that the description of some of the atroscities left me having a hard time falling asleep. I am glad I stuck with it nonetheless. Powerful ending.
Abandoned at page 75.
I really can't stick with this book a minute longer. I get it, this is a fascinating subject, and one that would be well-worth reading about. But ... how I wish Lisa See had written it as a straight history, rather than as a novel, because as a novel, it's like fingernails on a blackboard for me. (I know from my book club that I'm in the minority here, Hey ho.)
See's writing is clunky: completely uninspired and uninspiring. Short, choppy sentences are, I suspect, meant to convey the honest, down-to-earthedness of the "haenyeo" (the "sea women" of the Jeju island province of Korea). She has never seen a cliche that she doesn't like. Her characters have no inner life, they-- mothers, children, friends -- talk like they're addressing an anthropology lecture, ploddingly telling each other things that they already know.
Perhaps I should give it more credit --I know that many people have read it, and enjoyed it and hopefully come away with a better understanding of the history of these women, and their island, and the recent history of Korea. Sadly, not me ...