Little is thought about Jeju- a Korean island- occupied by brutal Japanese troops within the Thirties and ’40s, later liberated by US forces and turned over to the much more barbarous Korean regime whose wrongdoings have been ignored by each American and U.N. occupiers. Lisa See travels again 75 years to those horrifying occasions and weaves a story that intertwines these historic happenings with the haenyeo tradition of feminine divers who created a semi-matriarchal society by which they have been the breadwinners whereas their husbands carried out home duties and menial work. Via the story of Mi-ja and Younger-sook, two ladies divers from strikingly totally different backgrounds, however each a part of their village’s all-female diving collective, See introduces the reader to this distinctive and unexplored tradition of feminine diving. She does so whereas exploring the results that Japanese colonialism, the Second World Conflict and the Korean battle had on shaping their lives and the island of Jeju. The historic fiction novel is written as a dual-narrative which alternates between Younger-sook’s life as a fishing diver in 1938 and the dwellings of this previous life retold in 2008.
The haenyeo tradition is poorly understood, and, to today, nobody fairly comprehends the bond its ladies need to the ocean, their endurance and what their life-style encompassed. See embarks on researching their lives and stories the protagonist’s and her pals’ careers and life decisions (typically pressured upon them). Beginning with diving regionally and promoting their catch, Younger-sook and Mi-ja- each married and pregnant- quickly needed to purchase contract diving work in Vladivostok, Russia, to earn extra money and assist themselves in addition to their households. Whereas they dove into the ice-cold waters, their physique temperatures fell to ranges unrecorded wherever else on the earth. As two near-fatal incidents proved, abalone and large octopuses comprised the riskiest but most prized catch. Descriptions of their fishing endeavours and encounters with the ocean’s predators, in addition to typically lethal prey, painting the threats these feminine divers confronted but additionally show the distinctive expertise and data they possessed.
“Each lady who enters the ocean carries a coffin on her again.” says the chief diver. “On this world, within the undersea world, we all know the burdens of a tough life. We’re crossing between life and loss of life day-after-day.”
Within the first half of the novel, See explores the craft of the haenyeo: free diving, pre-wetsuit diving gear and sumbisori: the artwork of held breath and a vocal follow based mostly on methods additionally utilized by whales and seals which permits the human physique to dive right down to 20m beneath the ocean degree. Within the latter a part of the guide, See backdrops the lives of Younger-sook and Mi-ja towards the horrendous occasions that happened on Jeju island and the loss and betrayal that adopted, introducing the reader to this untold however essential a part of historical past.
In conclusion, ‘The Island of Sea Ladies’ is a crucial work of historic fiction that introduces and explores a tradition little is thought about. Via a narrative of unbelievable friendship, hardship, loss, betrayal and endurance, See not solely tells a ravishing story of two feminine divers, the artwork they cultivated, and their knowledge and perseverance however attracts our consideration to vital occasions which formed and infrequently destroyed the lives of many like them residing on Jeju. It introduces the reader to a really totally different lifestyle, shines gentle on unique data, intricate fishing and harvesting methods, indigenous knowledge, the reversal of conventional gender roles and a society ruled by guidelines and customs very totally different to our personal.
To all these involved in diving, discovering out extra concerning the haenyeo tradition and Korea’s turbulent historical past, I wholeheartedly advocate this one-of-a-kind learn.
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