Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Brides of Rollrock Island

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

This book took me a bit to get through as it was aggressively chilling., let me review it and maybe that sentence will make more sense.

Amazon summary, "On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings—and to catch their wives.

The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.

Margo Lanagan weaves an extraordinary tale of desire, despair, and transformation. With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also unspoken love." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

So, there are a few things that I'm still puzzling about with this book, but I was really awe struck by the writing style. The author has very aggressive writing while managing to switch between different character's perspectives to give the 'Selkie' seal-wives story true depth.

So once upon a time Misskaella was a young child who looked a bit funny and had a natural magic about her that drew the seals to her. She accidentally draws the seals off the beach and into the town for a couple days. An elder of the island realizes the signs and instructs her to construct an 'x' on her chest by tying cloths from shoulder to hips. Misskaella does and the seals return to the sea. So Misskaella was often bullied/harassed by her siblings and her mam didn't seem to particularly care for her either. As she grows older, none of the lads of the island will take her as a wife and all of her siblings have been married or left for the mainland. Misskaella grows bitter and seeks out the seal bull and draws a man from the seal one night. They lie together and Misskaella bears his child but cannot keep it and so she bestows a wrap on him before returning him to the sea.

With her heart encrusted with bitterness, she obliges a man who seeks a seal wife. It begins the end of happy days on Rollrock Island.

The narration switches from different characters to give a more complete grasp on how this strange old magic grips the island in turmoil. How one woman's bitterness can affect so many.

It was a very strange, harrowing tale and I'm probably going to be dwelling on it for a bit. I enjoyed the story in a sense, but I'm a bit creeped out and keep returning to the word 'bizarre'. I think this tale will stay with me for a long while.

Another tidbit: this is a selkie tale, but not in the traditional sense. Yes, the woman emerge from seals and their coats they shed can return them to their seal form. But the story is so chilling. It's not a normal fairy tale I suppose, it seems to be a throwback to how fairy tales used to be told; as warnings with no happy endings. Before Disney. It's pretty wicked sweet.

Happy reading!

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