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The Brides of Rollrock Island [Hardcover]

Margo Lanagan
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 9.74 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

2 Feb 2012

Rollrock island is a lonely rock of gulls and waves, blunt fishermen and their homely 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 - the scary, salty-real sort of magic that changes lives forever. Down on the windswept beach, where the seals lie in herds, the outcast sea witch Misskaella casts her spells - and brings forth girls from the sea - girls with long, pale limbs and faces of haunting innocence and loveliness - the most enchantingly lovely girls the fishermen of Rollrock have ever seen.

But magic always has its price. A fisherman may have and hold a sea bride, and 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 is. He will be equally ensnared. And in the end the witch will always have her payment.

Margo Lanagan has written an extraordinary tale of desire, despair and transformation. In devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals unforgettable characters capable of unspeakable cruelty - and deep unspoken love. After reading about the Rollrock fishermen and their sea brides, the world will not seem the same.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: David Fickling Books (2 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857560336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857560339
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 441,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Outstanding . . . Nothing is predictable in this astonishing novel, which expands on classic tales about selkie brides with unsettling imaginative thoroughness (Amanda Craig The Times 2012-02-04)

Margo Lanagan has a unique, uncompromising and lyrical voice and she brings it to the folk myth of selkies in a soaring journey of passion and pain . . . Heartstoppingly gorgeous. Five stars (The Bookbag 2012-01-16)

Margo Lanagan is a writer of such soaring talent that it is almost impossible to do justice to her creations in a review . . . Readers will find themselves beguiled by Lanagan's deliciously unsettling and haunting prose (Dinah Hall Daily Telegraph 2012-07-22)

As she paints images for us of Daniel's brief life under the waves as a seal, she shows writing of the highest order: subtle, powerful, poetic (Marcus Sedwick Guardian 2012-02-11)

A brilliant novel that draws you in to its particular world and holds you spellbound (Annalise Taylor Carousel)

Book Description

A mesmerizing tale of sea magic from the author of Tender Morsels.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly enchanting, spellbinding novel 14 Feb 2012
By Kate TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Margo Lanagan's Brides of Rollrock Island began its life as one story among several in the collection Sea-Hearts. Now it is expanded and the results are wondrous. With the most beautiful prose, Margo Lanagan transports us to an island, a little timeless, on which men live with their silky-haired, large-eyed wives. There are no daughters, just boys, all of whom love their graceful mams, and this relationship between the men of the island and their enchanting women gives life to the heart of this novel.

The men of the island have turned their backs on the local red-haired fiery, spirited women. Instead, Misskaella, the island's sea-witch, has offered each of them the gift of naming the women that she can draw out from their seal skins. The price is great, huge debt ensues, but the prize is a non-questioning and loving wife who, deprived of her locked away sealskin, is unable to leave the land and her man. These women have to suffer the double pain of losing their seal children and their human daughters. Their husbands are too enraptured to help but their sons are a different matter.

The Brides of Rollrock Island is told by a succession of different narrators, covering two or three generations and regularly referring backwards. The most dominant figure on the island is Misskaella who has ensnared the husbands and terrified the sons. But this menacing witch who knits seaweed on the beach has her own story and this forms a substantial part of the tale. This is one of the true strengths of the novel. The witch we see later on, ugly and predatory, was once a young girl we empathised with, the smallest daughter among many in a family that loved her. But from the moment that she discovered that she could charm seals from the seas, she couldn't live a normal life again.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious and Memorable 11 May 2012
Format:Hardcover
What interested me most about The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan was that it was about selkies. I haven't read any books about selkies, so I was prepared to learn and be amazed. It took me a short while to get into the story because of little things like unusual names and time jumps, but when I did get used to it, I found it atmospheric, moving and rich in detail.

The Brides of Rollrock Island spans three generations and follows five characters. I really enjoyed Lanagan's descriptions of Rollrock Island as it sounds so wild, untamed and mythical. The wonderful descriptions of setting reminded me of Guy de Maupassant's A Vendetta. The transformation scenes from seal to woman are highly memorable too.

The story centres on a witch called Misskaella for the first third of the book. Her life isn't a happy one as she is the black sheep of her family and treated as an outsider by the community. She's constantly teased about her looks and her affinity to the seals that come to Rollrock Island.

One day Misskaella discovers that she is able to draw women out of seals. These selkie women are so fantastically beautiful that soon the men start to reject earthly women in favour of selkie women and here, much to Misskaella's happiness, is where the tragedy begins.

I felt really sorry for Misskaella as she was mistreated and ignored. I supported her when she wanted to get her own back of the inhabitants of Rollrock Island. Of course, when I read the story from other people's points of view, my support wavered.

I really wanted to read a part of the story from the point of view of a selkie wife, however, the closest I got to one was reading the point of view of her son and her husband. This definitely helped to keep up the mystery of the selkie.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Novel, unique and a cracking new offering 8 Feb 2012
By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
I love a book that takes me on a journey and that's something that Margo Lanagan always does in her own special way. Here we get all the attributes that have made her a known author wrapped up with the ancient myths about the selkie bride. It is clever, it has some magical sleight of hand alongside twisting the readers expectations. Add to this great prose, top notch characters and an overall arc that makes you believe in the concept that Margo is selling, makes this a cracking start to a new series.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting take on the selkie legends 9 April 2012
Format:Hardcover
While not completely knowledgeable about selkies, it's is a myth I've always been interested in. For those that don't know, selkies are the Scottish legends about seals that shed their skin to become beautiful women. If you hide their skin, they cannot return to the water and must stay on land until they can reclaim it. Although Margo Lanagan never mentions the word selkies, it's clear that this is what the women in The Brides of Rollrock Island are based upon.

For me, it wasn't the selkie-wives themselves that captured my attention - it was the effect that this selfish scheme had on the island itself. As soon as Able Marten convinces the witch to bring him a seal for a wife, every warm-blooded male on Rollrock wants one for himself - even the ones who have wives already. Eventually the human women are all replaced and leave for the mainland as they realise they can never compete with the lovely women that come from the sea. Soon there are no human females left and mainlanders are warned to never set foot on Rollrock. It changes the island completely and it's fascinating to watch.

It's told from multiple perspectives, so you can see the dilemma from all sides. This switches over five or six times, from the sea-witch herself to the son of one of the seal-maidens. I'm not normally a fan of multi-perspective stories, but it really does works in this book. It tends to change over just as you start to feel comfortable with a character, but you've forgotten your irritation within a few pages and you get drawn into the new character's thoughts.

The timeline also changes as the narrative moves back and forth - another thing that I usually don't like, but only adds to the flow in this case.
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