Margo Lanagan, |
The Brides of Rollrock Island
Isolated on the sea, Rollrock is a simple island where everyone knows the rules: Work on fishing boats, bear children and fear the witch. For a witch can draw beautiful women out from the seals of the sea, and when these changed selkies come to Rollrock the island will also transform.
The shame of seal lineage marks Misskaella, but with power instead of beauty. The love of seals will only take her so far, but the enchantment of them gives her the means to remake Rollrock completely. What will men pay for the allure of a seal maid, how strongly will seal blood course through new children, how far can the seal witch reweave her island? With the voices of witches, and the young of generations, author Margo Lanagan weaves a tumultuous, but bewitching tale.
The pace pitches and rolls unevenly, but with the suspense and surety of a sea voyage. The characters bring you into their depths less with likeability and more with the vividness of their thoughts and the universality of their emotions. Loneliness, bitterness and betrayal all become part of Lanagan's siren song alongside love, desire and success. The Brides of Rollrock Island explores the importance of control, follows the speedy lanes and jagged byways of blame, and showcases the pull of looks. Yet the heart of this book is that everyone must be true to themselves, even though that self may transform completely. The selkies yearn for the sea, a man alters in response to his home, and "a lad that loves his mother above all" can explain a mire of heart-wrenching evolutions.
Lanagan's honeyed writing lays a glistening coat over the bitter chocolate of her characters' rough tales. Thick with the caffeinated inevitability of time and awakening readers' taste buds with plenty of sea salt, The Brides of Rollrock Island is something to savor, that sticks with you as the sweet only enlivens the dark. This book will enchant you with words, steer you through the waves of multiple minds, and submerge you in powerful emotions. It's a dark fairytale bursting with magic and connections, strong with life's tides and haunting choices.
For a look at life's layers, coats and hidden currents, Lanagan's work provides a beautiful vessel.
book review by
19 September 2015
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