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The Brides of Rollrock Island Hardcover – September 11, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Misskaella Prout, the baby of the family, was born on a craggy, seal-covered island, when "there were no looks left for Prout girls." She is resentful of the boys who can't see past her lumpish form, and when she discovers she has a magical ability to cause human figures to step out of the bodies of seals, she calls forth a lover and finds herself with child. Over the years, she draws forth beautiful black-haired women, bought for a dear price by island men eager for wives. Now known as a witch, she can afford to buy the biggest house on the island, but finds herself no closer to happiness. The seal coats are hidden away, trapping the selkies in human form, where they create discontented families and bear half-enchanted sons. The story follows several generations, primarily those of Misskaella (who ages very slowly) and the Mallett family. When several sons unite to steal back the seal coats, the mams weave seaweed blankets and wrap their sons, so all can transform into seals together, leaving the human men behind. The men are not all bad, and one of them wonders occasionally why the women don't take a bit more charge of their own fate. Lanagan's writing is undeniably gorgeous. Her phrases and pacing almost demand that readers stop and admire their beauty. Many high school readers may not be ready to look past a plot of lumpen, unpopular misfits, and dark choices wrongly made. Encourage them to read for the richness of the language, and they may find the plot will grow on them. A natural audience would be readers who enjoyed the literary qualities of Christina Meldrum's Madapple (Knopf, 2008), Franny Billingsley's Chime (Dial, 2010), and E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News (Scribner, 1999).-Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TXα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Best of Children's Books 2012
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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
I had before never ventured into the realm of selkie fantasy fiction, but I’m glad to start here. Lanagan really captured the silent heartbreak of tearing these seal-women from the sea, the injustice and the cruelty of it. Although frankly, by the end of this book, I would’ve quite happy to stand around with Miskaella and Trudle and watch the men stay miserable. Having stolen wives for at least two generations (my math is probably not up to snuff), I thought they deserved all the misery they got. (But maybe I’m just being very uncharitable.)
The book certainly did a good job of illustrating what an unhealthy love looks like, because none of these marriages, save that of Dominick’s mam and dad, were healthy. Misskaella enchanted the men and trapped the women; the men could not look beyond themselves enough to set their wives free; the seal-women loved their husbands but loved the sea more.
The seal-wives were extremely docile for much of the book; stealing their skins seemed to sap them of the spirit to protest their circumstances. That was frustrating, especially since only Daniel seemed to have the guts to release them. However, the seal-women found strength enough to do what was needed to escape and protect their children.
I also appreciate the glimmer of hope there at the end, with Lory and Daniel's second meeting, him smiling. While slightly contrived, it was refreshing, like two souls breaking out of the shadows of the last generation. And Trudle… I didn’t expect to ever like her, but the final chapter from her perspective was so moving. I was happy that she was content as the island revived around her, that she discovered the last of Misskaella’s secrets.
All in all, a lovely read and one I’m proud to have on my bookshelf.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
From a young age, Misskaella had never known love.Read more