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. (goodreads summary)
Misskaella, the sea-witch was not a beauty herself. But she did have the power to bring beauty in the form of a sea-wife summoned from the seals of the ocean and beaches for the men of Rollrock Island. They knew of her magic and for a price could have the most beautiful woman for their own. The men rolled up the seal skins that were shed and stored them in a locked closet preventing the women from ever going back to their original form and returning to the sea. As the temptation grew stronger from man-to-man, to be with these perfectly beautiful and obedient beings, the women of the island slowly left for the mainlands. Marriages were broken apart, families separated and women were rejected as outcasts as the sea-wives were brought one-by-one by Misskaella's magic. As generations passed, the only ones inhabiting the island were men, sea-wives and their sons. Did this bring them the happiness they imagined it would? Little do they know that Misskaella will profit in more ways than one as she stands by watching her revenge unfold so easily.
I wasn't sure how I felt after I read this story... The writing evoked so many feelings and emotions that it took a while for me to realize that "yes", I think I did like it after all. Based around Selkie folklore, it definitely was not a light hearted story and actually had me feeling gloomy and sad throughout. It was almost like being on a small island that rains constantly for days and days, waiting for the sun to peek out any moment now. The setting and time were not clear but I was able to come up with my own image through good character description, descriptions of life on the island and vocabulary like "lad" and "mam" for mom. The story unfolds with Misskaella's childhood. She knew that she was different and that difference lead her to become the magical sea-witch. Each chapter is then based on a specific individuals point-of-view and how their story circles around Misskaella's magic and the consequences of choices. The sea-wives were truly unhappy and always felt the longing of the sea although they stayed committed to their new life. What I took away most from the story were questions like: what was true happiness, how far will one go for happiness and most of all what things would we do for love? One son in particular who has a strong bond for his sea-mam shows great courage to do the unthinkable that changes many lives on the island. There were several pages in the chapters that I found myself reading over again to try and connect with the story and understand it. The story and writing style is unique but once I finally got to the main climax, it captured my attention to get to the end of the book quicker. This book is a dark, folklore tragedy and will not be for every reader. Sometimes you walk away with uncertain feelings that will stay with you for a few days. This book will do that to its' reader. I felt haunted and not sure I will be able look at a seal without being reminded of this book. But then again, good writing is suppose to stick with its' reader and will give me something to talk about over coffee. I think this is a "just right book" for a mature reader over 16 as it does have some sensuality.~
Title: The Brides of Rollrock Island
Author: Margo Lanagan
Pub. Date: September 2012, Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Hardcover, 305 pgs.
Originally published as Sea Hearts