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The Brides of Rollrock Island Hardcover – September 11, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews Best of Teen's Books 2012
Tor.com, September 1, 2012:
"I've not been more moved by a book in years...It’s a wistful book, but wondrous. It will break your heart, and remake it.”
Starred Review, Booklist, June 1, 2012:
"A haunting, masterfully crafted novel that, as one should by now expect from Lanagan, isn’t a bit like anything else."
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2012:
"Bracing, powerful, resonant. . . . Earthy, vigorous characters and prose ground the narrative in the world we know, yet its themes are deep as the sea."
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, July 2, 2012:
"Powerful. . . . A beautifully written story featuring a thoroughly realized setting and cast."
Starred Review, The Horn Book, September/October 2012:
"Lanagan’s world is busily, passionately alive. Seal, human, sea, sky, and the rocks themselves animate this powerful story, a blend of folk tale and pungent, sharply observed—or invented—regionality."
Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2012:
"Like Lanagan’s previous Tender Morsels, this eerie, evocative story breathes mesmerizing life into familiar fairy-tale constructs as it explores issues of power, agency, culpability, freedom, and love within a deceptively quiet atmosphere of intimate horror."
School Library Journal, September 2012:
"Lanagan’s writing is undeniably gorgeous. Her phrases and pacing almost demand that readers stop and admire their beauty...A natural audience would be readers who enjoyed the literary qualities of Christina Meldrum’s Madapple, Franny Billingsley’s Chime, and E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News."
"I am in thrall to Margo Lanagan's voice. This is a marvelous book, full of magic and cunning." ―Kelly Link, award-winning author of Stranger Things Happen, and founder of Small Beer Press
"Margo Lanagan's writing is dangerously beautiful; it knows how to dance, and it knows how to fight." ―Mal Peet, winner of the Carnegie Medal for Tamar
"A brilliantly written and fascinating novel from the weird but wonderful mind of Margo Lanagan." ―Garth Nix, bestselling author of the Old Kingdom Chronicles
"Breathtaking. Margo Lanagan raises the bar with every story she tells." ―Melina Marchetta, winner of the Printz Award for Jellicoe Road
Top Customer Reviews
I often describe urban fantasy novels as "dark" when there's violence and pain, loss and mourning. THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND is wrapped in gossamer strands of darkness so pervasive, so heartbreaking and real, I need a new word to evoke the pain of these characters. Lanagan explores the mythology of the seal-wife, a woman taken from the sea and kept by hiding her seal pelt. Through generations, through many different eyes, she writes a first hand view of human cruelty and petty betrayal, of a community imploding in on itself.
This book explores an aspect of human relationships that I'd rather not delve into, the hunger a man can feel for a compliant, nubile girl. The seal-brides of Rollrock are chillingly childlike in their lack of agency, passive and plaintive and wishing for the sea. The writing is beautiful, chronicling each fissure in the bleak little village. Magic as horror, a legacy of heartbreak and otherness in the bloodlines of the village... there's no way I can do justice to how thoroughly Lanagan ensnared me in her net. I was angry and disgusted and sad and mesmerized, I could not look away.
I had to force myself to finish this book, but I am glad that I did. Lanagan doesn't flinch from the horror of her seal-brides, the petty selfishness of enthrallment and love, and it is just that unblinking gaze through the generations that elevates this story from a painful exercise to a very realistic and human story. I loved the frailty of Lanagan's seal-wives. She gives her mythology a loose genetics, where seal mothers impart wildness to their daughters with their X chromosome but the fathers' Y keeps their sons anchored to the shore.Read more ›
There they are, in a strange land, trapped into a marriage, with only their domestic duties and their children to comfort them.
I hesitate to call this book a story -- it is not narrative in the classical sense, with a rising and falling pattern of action. Instead it is sequentially episodic. Here is where she teaches herself to be a witch. Here is where he makes a bad decision. Here is the perpetuation of the cycle. Nothing is resolved or changed between the beginning and the end of the book, except that a whole lot of people lead lives of frantic desperation.
Which is not to say the book is without merit. I enjoyed it, and found it compelling.
"I had been ugly once; I must remember that, remember how to be ugly again now that I knew I was beautiful, remember how to be ordinary now that I'd seen the wonders inside me."
"power welled up in me like tears, and was held in check as tears must be held, for this business must be done right."
It could be read as a meditation on the cycles of abuse and poverty, or about the weird spaces that sex selection leaves, or a number of other things, but I think it's also true and valid that it is a tragedy of desire, and like all tragedies, it's not going to be easy to break out of it.
Read if: You like thoughtful, evocative books. You are ok with dire.
Skip if: You were really hoping for a plot. Women in servitude is going to crawl right up your nose.
Also read: Far From the Madding Crowd, in case you need more of tragic inevitability.
And again, I would not call it YA, because it reflects many bits of knowledge that are deep and clear to me now (and I am over 50). but that would have meant entirely different things to me ten, twenty or thirty years ago. There are many things in this book that I do not believe a teenager would truly understand, but perhaps that's a very good reason for them to read it: to plant ideas that they can think about for years. This book is weighed down with a lifetime's worth of learning about people. My highest praises, and thanks, to the author.
This is a series of short stories about the people who live on Rollrock Island. Misskaella is an ugly and fat girl who is treated cruelly by the people of Rollrock island. That is until the night Misskaella realizes that she can call out women from inside the seals of the island. The seal wives are beautiful beyond compare and the men of Rollrock will do anything to have a seal wife; but the seal wives are also eternally miserable as they as they are stuck in their human bodies. The men control the wives, but are in turn bespelled by the seal wives. This is the story of all of the years that Misskaella kept Rollrock island under the sad curse of the sea wives.
The prose this book is written in is absolutely stunning and the stories have a very dark and melancholy fairy tale feel to them. The descriptions are so well done that you can almost taste the sea as you read this book. The characters are amazing; they can show incredible love for each other and also be incredibly cruel. It was interesting to have a story that explores both depths of human emotion so deeply.
Misskaella is a fascinating character. In the beginning you really hurt for her, everyone is so cruel to her even as a child. Eventually she turns into what they believe her to be an ugly, mean witch. All of the characters in the stories are fascinating in similar ways. The men of the island love their seal wives so deeply, yet these same men are so cruel in how they keep their wives from the sea.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a page turner that left me with more questions than answers, and I wish there were more explanations but I loved this story anyways. Margo Lanagan is a true artist.Published 3 months ago by Ariana Burgett
The women of Rollrock island are strange: the witch Misskaella brings them up from the sea. This is the story not of characters but of a place, a phenomenon, selkies. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Juushika
This book was a little confusing at first, with so many names and POV's... but after I got going, I couldn't put it down! Lovely and original!Published 8 months ago by Julie Tuovi
Thanks to the AudioBookSync.com's summer program for YA Audio books, I was exposed and introduced to both this amazing book and it's author. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Marianna
Not your average young adult novel. For one thing, this is not an action packed, plot driven novel. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Saja
Lanagan introduces readers to an updated version of the ancient Scottish Selkies in her magical fairytale-like novel.
From a young age, Misskaella had never known love. Read more
Misskaella was marked a witch from a young age, and she drifts aimless and unhappy through life as the men and women of Rollrock Island do their best to avoid her. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Molly (Conan the Librarian)
It draws you in until all you hear is crushing waves and braying sea gulls. A little gem of a story.Published 22 months ago by Catriona