The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
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.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is my first Lanagan but by no means will it be my last. From the very words chosen to the way they’d been woven together, the feel of this is long and lush, dense and at times too much. Everything is so specifically and skillfully put together, that I felt the moody, dark and yes, sometimes even disturbing tone just propelled me forward.
I’ve come away with characters that cannot help but be well-realised. Better yet, those seven voices each building upon what’s last been said serve up stories that are so clearly depicted that the choices made whether hard or sad or questionable were simply decisions, but the people quite simply are who they are.People. Never more obvious than with Miskaella and Daniel, where Misakaela’s tale starts from sad girl to feared woman, her choices are not as disturbing (and they were) given the background laid down of her or the more painful story of of Daniel and his mother, when at last the wrongness of what’s been done is voiced out.
Of course, set in a place time that’s two things at once, reading this was quite the experience for me. The place is a bit unclear given the oddness and strangeness mixed in what could be. A sea witch calling forth sea wives for men of Rollrock Island, red wives leaving, sea wives staying, so that what’s initially odd becomes less odd and only to later become what is. It’s disturbing and dark, but genuine and though provoking: a woman’s place, a man’s choice, a son’s duty, a mother’s love, but at the core are the people and the choices each made and then later still the consequences of all those. Surprisingly, with each of the seven building on what’s been said, there’s an ending that’s haunting, leaving me only more questions... a fact that is not necessarily a negative.
Just know that if I could give BRIDES more stars than a 5, I would
So I will!
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