When I first began this book, I expected it to be like White chrysanthemum because both books focus on Haenyeo women of Jeju Island, South Korea, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. White Chrysanthemum lent towards comfort women while The island of sea women was about friendship among Haenyeo groups during the country’s turbulent times and the need to forgive.
Not only was the story a page turner, but the lives of these unique groups of women along Jeju’s coastline who support their families while the husbands stay home to care for their children was a fascinating background setting.
When Joy’s father commits suicide and she learns a secret Aunt May and her mother, Pearl have hidden from her all her life, she leaves Los Angeles and enters China. She hopes to forget her life back in America and find her birth father. Joy is elated by her father’s status and by village life under Mao. After Pearl reaches China in search of her daughter, she finds Joy dazzled by a poor country peasant and nothing she says can convince Joy of her ill fated match.
May and Pearl are characters from Shanghai Girls. Now the tale continues a generation later and is just as riveting.
In 1943 Hana, a haenyeo rushes from Jeju Island’s sea to save her younger sister, Emi from capture by Japanese soldiers. In her place, Hana is kidnapped and sent on a long journey north to become a comfort woman. But before she arrives at the northern brothel to service Japanese soldiers she is raped by her captor, Morimoto.
This is a well written but a difficult read because the story is based on what happened to from 50 000 to 200 000 Korean women during WW11.
When the Fong’s estate near Shanghai is sold and the Yangs arrive, Jialing’s mother disappears and Jialing becomes a bond servant to the new family. Through her friendship with the spirit fox and Anjuin, the Yangs oldest daughter, she survives. A group of teachers rent a section of the estate and Jialing is given an opportunity to go to school. But even with her education and perfect English no one will employ her because she is zazhong— half Chinese, half Eurasian. How will she survive once the Yangs move to Shanghai leaving her behind?
This book was recommended by fellow blogger Renee, the Global Bookwork and it’s definitely a five out of five (like every book I mention on this site).
Raami has an idealistic childhood in her Phnom Penh home with loving parents and servants. But when war breaks out in 1975 and the Khmer Rouge force everyone to flee from the city, the family joins the throngs of people and head to their holiday home with Raami’s extended family. They are lulled into a false sense of security until they are ordered to leave not only their second home, but their car. They trudge along with the rest of the hoards where soldiers watch over them, their guns poised, without knowing where they are headed.
This compelling novel is based on the writer’s personal experiences with names and locations changed.
Over two decades ago I saw a haunting Japanese movie based on Kobo Abe’s book that has always stayed with me. It was time to read this strange story of a man who walks into the sand dunes in search of beetles that survive in this unique environment. When the day draws to a close, Niki seeks shelter in a strange village he encounters. He is billeted with a woman living alone and only when he wakes the next morning does he learn his fate. This unique story will have you spitting sand and brushing it off your shoulders with every page turn.
Through his high school years Tsukura has a special relationship with his four best friends. But after he moves to Tokyo to continue his studies, he returns to Nagoya to discover none of his friends want anything to do with him. He is deeply hurt and only sixteen years later when he meets Jane, she encourages him to revisit his friends and find out the mystery behind why he was ostracized.
A moving story about friendships, loss and new beginnings.