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Once Misskaella sets her heart on doing such a thingMargo Lanagan weaves an extraordinary tale of desire and revenge of loyalty heartache and human weakness and of the unforeseen conseuences of all consuming love. 45 StarsMelancholy If I had to capture Margo Lanagan s The Brides of Rollrock Island in one word melancholy would be the one Melancholy is sad but also thoughtful beautiful and heartbreaking as was this tale The Brides of Rollrock Island isn t a streamlined book Told from six varying points of view our tale begins in the middle reverses to the beginning and moves forward to the end with a motion that indicates that this is a story that has happened before and one that can happen again The age old adage that history is doomed to repeat itself is ever present in Lanagan s book we know roughly what will happen because it has all happened before and we end with the unshakable knowledge that it is only a matter of time before events take a similar course once againThe Brides of Rollrock Island is a book with no heroes or villains it is a book where every man woman and child falls victim to their humanity or lack thereof Who do we point fingers at Who do we blame when things go wrong The answer is complicated beyond our ability to grasp when we see clearly each sides motivations The men of Rollrock cannot help but be bewitched and enraptured by the seal women who come to shore the selkies cannot help bewitching or having hearts ever torn between the sea and the men they love and how can we blame a woman who has endured many cruelties for dooming others to share what touch of happiness she has knownIf it seems as if this is another review where I will talk little of the story and much of the atmosphere you are correct I firmly believe it is best for readers to open The Brides of Rollrock Island with a mystery hanging over their head knowing only that it will be breathtaking but there are some details I will share The Brides of Rollrock Island has a haunting and sad air about it much like a Gothic novel and while one could impose its time as early 20th century the story also remains timeless in a manner that is rarely captured The island of Rollrock itself embodies the notion of setting as character with a spirit personality and story of its own It will make you long to breathe salt in the air spend your days on rocky shores and gaze into the sad dark eyes of wild creaturesOne of the most uniue aspects of The Brides of Rollrock Island is the way it tells a very adult story through the eyes of children and young adults Each narration in the book is from the eyes of a child or young adult and as they age into adulthood we stumble into the point of view of another learning to see the island and its people in new ways Creating the perfect crossover story Lanagan has written a tale that will captivate young and old alike with an ebb and flow of characters that matches the ever changing sea itself Our characters grow our views of them morph from pity to understanding to admiration to scorn as we experience The Brides of Rollrock Island from nearly all anglesNearly I say because there is one point of view that remains elusive that of the sea brides themselves I actually didn t realize this upon reading until it was pointed out to me by Catie in her review I ve decided however that this is not a point of complaint for me I actually kind of love that while we are given a small glimpse of their souls the selkie women remain largely mysterious and otherworldly As humans we so often need human or part human narrators to understand those creatures of myth and The Brides of Rollrock Island is no exception I would love to understand the sea wives but in the end I m not sure that would be fair to them Their men children and those who lived elsewhere certainly never fully understood these women so who am I to do soMargo Lanagan s The Brides of Rollrock Island is a stunning and beautiful work of fantasy one that is as cold as it is rich and as lyrical as it is cruel It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2012 and it did not disappoint on the contrary it exceeded all possible expectations and has been one of my favorite reads this year I had intended to read this one as a read along with Jen and Heather but alas real life and hurricanes got in our way and we never really aligned still it s a wonderful work I m looking forward to discussing now that we ve finishedOriginal review posted at Bunbury in the Stacks

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Sea Hearts

'Why would I People are uneasy enough with me if I start bringing up sea wives they'll take against me good and proper' 'It could be secret''Could it'On remote Rollrock Island the sea witch Misskaella discovers s. There s no uestion in my mind that this book is brilliantly written I ve been consistently impressed and moved by Margo Lanagan s prose since my first experience with her work a few years ago and this book does not disappoint in that regard However and this will actually be a positive for many readers this book is far tame and accessible than Tender Morsels It s even accessible than the short story of hers that I read in Zombies vs Unicorns last year And that s not to say that this book is all softness and happiness and rainbows far from it But compared to the other two works of hers that I ve read this one just isn t as traumatizing As I said this will actually be a positive for many readers I would definitely suggest this book for anyone who wants to give Margo Lanagan a try without being overwhelmed This is the book you should start with However as someone who loves her darker and gruesome side I actually really missed the shock factor that I ve come to expect from her I loved this book uite a lot but I know that it won t linger in my mind uite as much as Tender Morsels still doesThis book is absolutely brilliant though both in its poetic beauty and in its technical precision She is one of the few authors I know of who seems to marry those two elements effortlessly I appreciate both although I think maybe I have a slight preference for poetic beauty over technical precision but when I see them come together in one work of art it never fails to leave me in awe Not only does she seamlessly connect six different narrators she tells this story in a sort of spiraling timeline She starts in the middle moves to the beginning and then moves through the start to reach the end In a less skilled author s hands all of these narrators and the shifting timeline could easily become a huge mess But she makes it feel absolutely perfect like the only way this story could possibly be toldI don t typically enjoy reading through a whole cast of narrators but Margo Lanagan makes me love it Her stories are handed off from one pair of eyes to another like a relay and the result is an incredibly three dimensional view We get to see through the eyes of young Misskaella a girl with a power that she doesn t understand but that seems to scare or disgust everyone on the small island where she lives As she grows and even her family seems to wish she were never born as her isolation and bitterness increase it becomes easier to see why she would want to punish them all From within the soft blubbery bodies of female seals she pulls forth girls tall pale graceful and biddable girls Girls who seem to bewitch every single man on the island Through the span of decades she changes the entire face of the island effectively removing it from the modern world and isolating everyone who chooses to stay The torch of narration is passed through the wives and children of these men who are cast aside to the men themselves who are hopelessly lost to the selkie brides to the children born of these new marriages and finally back into Misskaella s life through the eyes of her apprenticeI fell so hard into each one of these different characters that it was sometimes hard to move on But it was exciting too like having my firmly held beliefs proven wrong over and over again Am I the only one who really enjoys that The only small gripe I have is that I wish she had included a selkie bride as one of the narrators It sort of happens with Daniel Mallett the son of one of these women but not completely I really wonder why she chose not to include that point of viewHer writing is just absolutely stunning though For example this passage which is about giving up a child for his own well being All the years to come crowded into that time and I lived them long and bitter and empty of him The rightness of what I had done and the wrongness both they tore at me and repaired me and tore again and neither of them was bearable I have never gone through that courageous and painful act but she made me feel as if I hadPerfect Musical PairingThe Cranberries Dreaming My DreamsWhenever I listen to this song I think about my children growing up and heading out into the world and leaving me behind And I feel such a mix of emotions pride grief desperation to hold onto their little selves eagerness to prepare them for adulthood I think that the old clich is right one of the truest tests of love for another person is the ability to let him or her go And I think that it s interesting that in The Brides of Rollrock Island it is the villain who is able to let her loves go while her victims can t seem to They are so desperate to hold on to their loves that they strangle the life out of them So this is where I come to the from above After writing this review I realize that this book left of an impression on me than I originally thought This book is uieter and subdued than Tender Morsels but it still lingersAlso seen on The Readventurer

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He can draw a girl from the heart of a seal So for a price any man might buy himself a bride an irresistibly enchanting sea wife But what cost will be borne by the people of Rollrock the men the women the children. 45 stars Was she beautiful the sea maid Fair strange Doris had said and I thought that was a fine assessment Fair strange I think that s a fine assessment of Sea Hearts too beautiful in or for its unusualnessIt s proving extremely difficult to review Sea Hearts titled The Brides of Rollrock Island in the US in isolation and not hold it up against Lanagan s previous novel Tender Morsels Though I read the latter earlier this year I still haven t been able to wrangle my thoughts into review form beyond being able to say that it s one of the most powerful disturbing and peculiar books I ve ever read And I do mean that in a good way So I was apprehensive even nervous going into Sea HeartsNow having read them both I can definitely say that there are some similarities between the novels as they both have Lanagan s singularly complex and artistic use of language atmosphere emotion and thematic depth However while Tender Morsels is almost relentlessly unsettling I believe Sea Hearts without diluting the power of Lanagan s writing is the accessible bookAnd the writing is exuisite Besides the rich lyrical prose that sets Lanagan apart as a storyteller it s also incredibly atmospheric Rollrock Island and its small insular community of Potshead are exceptionally well realised Lanagan has created a setting that feels simultaneously familiar and foreign a glimpse of our own past slightly tilted on its axis into something strange and not uite of our world Through dialogue and characterisation the world of Rollrock slips its moorings in reality and occupies a realm of existence just beyond our own all the so as the story of the selkies and sea witches are woven into its historySea Hearts is structured around seven narrators each taking up a layer of the story until it comes full circle At first the framework seems strange and the shifts in perspective and time feel abrupt incomplete Then a synergy in the voices begins to emerge drawing towards a central cohesive thread and it becomes clear just how complex and dark a story Lanagan is weavingOn the surface Sea Hearts is about a sea witch with the ability to draw forth a woman from a seal who begins trading in brides for the men of Rollrock Island But that synopsis barely scratches the surface of what this novel is about This is a deeply insightful story about the conseuences of revenge exacted upon a community and of the sorrow bought with unchecked desire The far reaching effects of rejection fear and loss are adroitly explored through the characters whom Lanagan imbues with sympathy despite their many actions to the contrary This is most evident in Misskaella a character flawed and reprehensible yet deeply human in her story of growth from a spurned child and downtrodden young woman to a calculating and feared crone Some of Lanagan s most beautiful writing is tied up in Misskaella s character arc and the conseuences that her personal journey wreaks upon the island Similarly there s a scene that details a conversation between Daniel Mallett and his mother too long to uote here so poignant and moving for the way it gets straight to the heart of the novel to the private burdens of sorrow and guilt that the island must atone for cumulativelyOf course much like Tender Morsels the style and subject of Sea Hearts won t be for everyone and I d even venture to say that it s an acuired taste The novel can feel dense at times enigmatic to the point of frustration Lanagan compels her readers to unusual dark places and does not always deliver explanations rather reuiring readers to draw their own She does not offer detailed rationalisations for her worldbuilding choices and there are times when I felt out of my depth in the setting However the end result is extraordinary and rewardingTender Morsels in a feminist context has been the subject of much discussion both far in depth and articulately than I could even begin to attempt but I think it s worth touching on the subject as it pertains to Sea Hearts I do think that Lanagan s novels have many intelligent things to say about the position of women in society Sea Hearts less stridently than Tender Morsels but still in an insightful and thought provoking manner Throughout Sea Hearts traditional gender roles are very much in evidence and I think that Lanagan subtly challenges these as the plot unfolds The female characters typically occupy narrowly defined places in their society yet both the red wives and the sea wives have agency in contesting these Most obvious is the red wives in their decision to leave the island in protest against the summoning of the sea wives And while it s arguable that the sea wives themselves are conjured as possessions of the men living under their dominance and as manifestations of the men s sexual desire and objectification they too have purpose and desire outside being wives Their ties to their home and the action this causes them to take clearly demonstrate that their will extends beyond the narrow confines of Potshead s social norms and expectations and that attempting a forced assimilation only damages the tightly knit community From Miskaella Bet Winch s mother the sea wives Lory Severner to Trudle Callisher the central female characters of Sea Hearts display different aspects of strength and independence asserting themselves beyond the rigid and limited views of them held by the other characters particularly the menSea Hearts is an unusual novel beautiful in its sadness and haunting closure It works well as a crossover and I d recommend it to anyone drawn to artful storytelling and literary fiction As for the covers and titles I like them all though I admit a bias for the Australian versions of both I like the title Sea Hearts which is also the title of the original novella from which the novel grew for its duality it works on both a literal and symbolic level and is therefore open to a variety of interpretations Regarding the covers anyone who s had a glance at my tumblr knows how I feel about moody pictures involving water spoiler I like them however I think the Australian cover is evocative of the sea wives as they re described And I think it s just gorgeous in generalStarting this tonight flails and runs to catch up with LeanneBumping this up the TBR to read with Leanne next week


10 thoughts on “Sea Hearts

  1. says:

    ‘’Rollrock is a lonely island of cliffs and storms blunt fishermen and their fierce wives Life is hard for the families who must wring a poor living from the stormy seas But Rollrock is also a place of magic’’When I read and adored Kirsty Logan’s The Gloaming my dear friend Marina recommended Margo Lanagan’s The Brides of Rollrock Island because she knows how much I love myths islands and selkies I

  2. says:

    If you have any expectations of what this book will be like based on the cover throw them away You won't find a dreamy romantic fairy tale retelling here It's like this type of crazy business going onRecipe for a twisted dark fairy tale 1 One crazy witch2 Stupid men who think with the wrong head3 Seals I'm being serious t

  3. says:

    There’s no uestion in my mind that this book is brilliantly written I’ve been consistently impressed and moved by Margo Lanagan’s prose since my first experience with her work a few years ago and this book does not disappoint in that regard However and this will actually be a positive for many readers – this book is far tame and accessible than Tender Morsels It’s even accessible than the short story of hers that I read

  4. says:

    45 stars”Was she beautiful the sea maid? Fair strange Doris had said and I thought that was a fine assessment Fair strange I think that’s a fine assessment of Sea Hearts too beautiful in or for its unusualnessIt’s proving extremely dif

  5. says:

    The Brides of Rollrock Island is one of those novels that left me with the thought that there is no possible word in the English language that could even attempt to summon up the strange ethereal and mystifying experience that is c

  6. says:

    The back of the book says we see the deepest of human cruelty but also of love Wrong there is no love in this bookIf you like the last episode of Twin Peaks you'll like this book That's not exactly a good thing This novel takes 'cere

  7. says:

    45 StarsMelancholy If I had to capture Margo Lanagan’s The Brides of Rollrock Island in one word melancholy would be the one Melancholy is sad but also thoughtful; beautiful and heartbreaking–as was this tale The Brides of Rollrock Island isn’t a streamlined book Told from six varying points of view our tale begins in the middle reverses to the beginning and moves forward to the end with a motion that indicates tha

  8. says:

    When you read a Margo Lanagan book you expect it to both confuse and enthrall you And THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND delivers that head spinning gut churning fizzy brained mixture of “what in the world is going on?” and “did she really go there?” and “oh my goodness she is a genius”You can read THE BRIDES OF RO

  9. says:

    I got this on audio from AudioBookSync Wow this book is weird There's something peculiarly haunting about selkie folklore I can picture a careworn exhausted mother telling the story to her daughter Once the women could swim free before they were robbed of their skins I can see a father still mourning the loss of his wife from childbirth telling it to his young son The women don't want to leave their husbands and children but the

  10. says:

    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 B