Guest review by Kulsuma from sunshine and stardust
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.
The Brides of Rollrock Island has some great twists that I didn’t see coming. While I did think some parts weren’t necessary to the story, overall, I was highly satisfied with it. Margo Lanagan writes with flair and I am looking forward to reading more from her. I loved learning about selkies and would recommend this to those wishing to do the same.
Sounds unusual! Thanks for the review Kulsuma