Review: The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf BFYR  (Sept 11th, 2012)
Hardcover: 320 pages
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

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.
Margo Lanagan weaves an extraordinary tale of desire, despair, and transformation. With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also unspoken love


The Brides of Rollrock Island is quite the melodic and haunting folklore. Truth be told, going into this book I though it was about mermaids, but this is actually a story of selkies, mythological creatures that live like seals in the sea but can shed their skin to be human on land. And following suit of most folklore, this is somewhat a (romantic) tragedy.

The book reads like a collection of interconnecting short stories that Lanagan has beautifully woven together.  The story is told from seven narratives and begins with young Daniel Mallet and the introduction of old Misskaella and why the young lads fear her. We than go back to young  Misskaella and we see her story unfolds, of how she becomes the witch of Rollrock and how the seal-wives came to be. The narrative returns back to Rollrock and the how the interactions between the human men, women, selkies and their children changes the very dynamic of the community.

I did find it to be a slow read, some parts more than others but there were definitely parts I wouldn’t put the book down. My favourite narratives come from Daniel Mallet and Lory Severner and I could only wish Lory’s was a little longer (it was definitely quite the tease for a really cute story there, though I guess it wouldn’t quite fit the overall mood of the book which  present itself as dark and haunting). Overall a beautifully written story that I enjoyed well enough, though it may not be for everyone, this book is definitely one for lovers of folklore.

{* Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing an e-ARC.


Find Margo Lanagan:

Website | Goodreads

Purchase the book:

Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

Author: Cyn

noun. a bum OT, procrastinator. reader. eater. sleeper. music listen-er. movie go-er. Loves food too much.

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