Book: “The Mermaid From Jeju” by Sumi Hahn
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Blogger’s Note: Thank you to the publisher for the gifted copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!
“The Mermaid From Jeju” by Sumi Hahn is a historical fiction novel with hints of magical realism about a young girl who is coming into her own as a haenyeo in Korea just after World War II. As Goh Junja is learning about life, she is experiencing things like first love and loss.
I received a physical copy of this one in addition to an audiobook. I love reading this way because it truly provides an immersive experience. I loved the audiobook! The first half of the book was narrated by a woman reading from Junja’s point of view. As a listener, I settled into this routine and enjoyed the narrator’s voice acting. However, in the middle of the novel the point of view changes and the reader hears from a different narrator. I found the male voice to be slightly jarring and disorienting. I had just spent several hours getting to know Junja’s character and her point of view… then I felt unnecessarily thrust into a different mind. However, I enjoyed Junja’s story so much… I wanted to stick with the book and ensure that I gave the second half of the book a fair try. I did find myself longing for more from Junja’s point of view though and disliking the male narration.
There were some passages from this book that will stick with me forever. There was a beautiful section in the beginning of the book describing the surface diving of the haenyeo women which was magical and the imagery was wonderful. I also was completely mesmerized by the scene in the market when Junja and her grandmother first visit the market and the grandmother is speaking with other villagers. The women of the story captivated me and held my interest throughout the novel. I found myself thinking about them while I was away from the story and I wanted to return quickly to reading so that I could find out what happened to these remarkable women. This book touched my heart and left an imprint that will be there forever more. I would encourage readers to seek out #ownvoices reviews as I’m sure that those reviews would perhaps takeaway different concepts from the book.
Recommendation: I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Korean history and historical fiction.