The Brides of Rollrock Island

( 7 )

Overview

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 ...

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The Brides of Rollrock Island

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this powerful but grim tale set on a rugged, windswept island, an unlovely, embittered young woman discovers that she can magically pull human beings out of seals: “I drew each speck toward and into the man-shape at his center. A head-blur parted from the body-blur; some limbs came good, splitting from the main shine. Then suddenly the man’s outline sharpened within the seal.” She uses this power first to find herself a lover and then to take revenge on the people of Rollrock Island, who she believes have slighted her, providing each man with a supernaturally beautiful seal-woman (for a price). Decades later, the jilted human women have all left the island, leaving the spell-struck men with their captive wives, who cannot always hide their yearning for the sea. Lanagan (Tender Morsels) casts the traditional selkie tale in a poetic yet deeply antiromantic form. What, she asks, would such a relationship truly be like? How might it satisfy, but also destroy those involved? A beautifully written story featuring a thoroughly realized setting and cast. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly Best of Children's Books 2012

Kirkus Reviews Best of Teen's Books 2012

Tor.com, September 1, 2012:
"I've not been more moved by a book in years...It’s a wistful book, but wondrous. It will break your heart, and remake it.”

Starred Review, Booklist, June 1, 2012:

"A haunting, masterfully crafted novel that, as one should by now expect from Lanagan, isn’t a bit like anything else."

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2012:
"Bracing, powerful, resonant. . . . Earthy, vigorous characters and prose ground the narrative in the world we know, yet its themes are deep as the sea."

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, July 2, 2012:
"Powerful. . . . A beautifully written story featuring a thoroughly realized setting and cast."

Starred Review, The Horn Book, September/October 2012:
"Lanagan’s world is busily, passionately alive. Seal, human, sea, sky, and the rocks themselves animate this powerful story, a blend of folk tale and pungent, sharply observed—or invented—regionality."

Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2012:
"Like Lanagan’s previous Tender Morsels, this eerie, evocative story breathes mesmerizing life into familiar fairy-tale constructs as it explores issues of power, agency, culpability, freedom, and love within a deceptively quiet atmosphere of intimate horror."

School Library Journal, September 2012:
"Lanagan’s writing is undeniably gorgeous. Her phrases and pacing almost demand that readers stop and admire their beauty...A natural audience would be readers who enjoyed the literary qualities of Christina Meldrum’s Madapple, Franny Billingsley’s Chime, and E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News."

"I am in thrall to Margo Lanagan's voice. This is a marvelous book, full of magic and cunning." ―Kelly Link, award-winning author of Stranger Things Happen, and founder of Small Beer Press
 
"Margo Lanagan's writing is dangerously beautiful; it knows how to dance, and it knows how to fight." ―Mal Peet, winner of the Carnegie Medal for Tamar
 
"A brilliantly written and fascinating novel from the weird but wonderful mind of Margo Lanagan." ―Garth Nix, bestselling author of the Old Kingdom Chronicles
 
"Breathtaking. Margo Lanagan raises the bar with every story she tells." ―Melina Marchetta, winner of the Printz Award for Jellicoe Road

VOYA - Amy Wyckoff
Rollrock Island is a magical place known for its collection of beautiful women, or sea-wives, as they are called. The men of the island pay the witch Misskaella to coax these beautiful women with cascading black hair from the smooth skin of the seals that come to the coast of Rollrock. Soon the only women left on Rollrock are sea-wives, perfect as can be on the outside and bearing sons to make their husbands proud. Yet the sea-wives never stop longing to return to the sea and to feel whole again. In secret, one son devises a plan to steal the seal-skins of all the sea-wives to set them free. His actions will change the island forever, just as the bringing of the first sea-wife changed the island many years before. In first person from the perspective of seven pivotal characters, each character provides their understanding of the collective history of the island and its transformation. Lanagan's writing is perfectly crafted to tell this haunting tale of longing and desperation set on a bleak island isolated from the rest of the world. A great deal of character development makes this book a slow read initially; adults will likely enjoy this book, but teens may not readily select it or get through the first pages. This story seems based on the mythological creatures called selkies and, therefore, teens interested in fairytales may be prodded to read The Brides of Rollrock Island. Although this may not be a good recommendation for all teens, this novel is well worth a read for the beauty of its prose. Reviewer: Amy Wyckoff
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Misskaella Prout, the baby of the family, was born on a craggy, seal-covered island, when "there were no looks left for Prout girls." She is resentful of the boys who can't see past her lumpish form, and when she discovers she has a magical ability to cause human figures to step out of the bodies of seals, she calls forth a lover and finds herself with child. Over the years, she draws forth beautiful black-haired women, bought for a dear price by island men eager for wives. Now known as a witch, she can afford to buy the biggest house on the island, but finds herself no closer to happiness. The seal coats are hidden away, trapping the selkies in human form, where they create discontented families and bear half-enchanted sons. The story follows several generations, primarily those of Misskaella (who ages very slowly) and the Mallett family. When several sons unite to steal back the seal coats, the mams weave seaweed blankets and wrap their sons, so all can transform into seals together, leaving the human men behind. The men are not all bad, and one of them wonders occasionally why the women don't take a bit more charge of their own fate. Lanagan's writing is undeniably gorgeous. Her phrases and pacing almost demand that readers stop and admire their beauty. Many high school readers may not be ready to look past a plot of lumpen, unpopular misfits, and dark choices wrongly made. Encourage them to read for the richness of the language, and they may find the plot will grow on them. A natural audience would be readers who enjoyed the literary qualities of Christina Meldrum's Madapple (Knopf, 2008), Franny Billingsley's Chime (Dial, 2010), and E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News (Scribner, 1999).—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX
Kirkus Reviews
In this spellbinding, intricately layered novel, the Printz Honor winner (Tender Morsels, 2008) puts her unique spin on selkies--haunting, mysterious, seal-human shape-shifters in a world of hardscrabble fishing villages, lonely islands and cold, restless seas. At the story's heart is unattractive, abused Misskaella, whose harsh life on Rollrock Island changes when, at age 9, she awakens to powers that include an exhilarating, terrifying connection to the island's seals. Left largely unguided to develop her gifts, Misskaella grows up unloved, unmarried and feared. A secret joy makes life bearable, but loss soon follows. When she learns to draw forth a beautiful woman from a seal, life changes again. Island men set aside their human wives--girls and matrons who once ridiculed Misskaella--and pay whatever she asks for seal wives. Beautiful, strange, sad, they're truly loved by the husbands and sons who refuse to see their unhappiness. Earthy, vigorous characters and prose ground the narrative in the world we know, yet its themes are deep as the sea. Daniel, son of a human father and his seal wife, wonders why "whosoever's pain I thought of, it could not be resolved without paining someone else." Intentions and actions, cause and effect are untidy and complicated, raising questions that will require generations to answer. Bracing, powerful, resonant. (Fantasy. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375873362
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 7/23/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 273,176
  • Age range: 14 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Margo Lanagan

MARGO LANAGAN is a highly acclaimed writer of novels, short stories, and poetry and a two-time Printz honor winner. Tender Morsels was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, won the World Fantasy Award for best novel, received five starred reviews and was named a best book of the year by Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book Magazine, Booklist, The Bulletin, and School Library Journal. Ms. Lanagan lives in Sydney, Australia.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 21, 2012

    Wonderfully vivid, delicate and harsh... let Lanagan's writing lure you into the sea

    As soon as I closed the book, all I could think of was, "Good God - did the author's parents force-feed her poetry book after poetry book?" When I was engrossed in the short stories (Yes, it's a collection of short stories. I was surprised too.), it felt like I was actually on the ethereal island, commiserating and celebrating with the characters of the novel. When they felt, I felt more, and there could possibly be no greater anguish than the fact that what these characters shared with the readers, they couldn't - and didn't! - share with the inhabitants of Rollrock Island.

    When I first spotted this on GoodReads, I jabbed a finger at my computer screen and boldly proclaimed, "Now that is a book that could take me away for a while." And I was right. (I'm rarely right, as attested by the fact that a lot of the books that have low ratings on this site are mostly mine.) The Brides of Rollrock Island did not just take me away; The imagery was wonderfully vivid, the words were delicate and harsh at the same time, and the storyline was both refreshing and sensual.

    "We passed between the Heads, the rocks piled like messy gateposts either side of us, the swell making the ship restless. The sun came out like a cheer, and the water was the loveliest color, bright blue-green, and the foam curled like cream on some of the waves. The Heads fell behind, and there was nothing but sky and sea ahead of us, and each one's weather. The towns and farms and all their fuss and clutter of memories, I was shrugging them off like a heavy cloak, and sailing free." (278)

    It is here we meet our characters, most of whom Lanagan does not spare in fleshing out, like the crafty storyteller that she is. Lanagan's characters are very real, very much alive, and I couldn't help but be swayed by the emotions and the inner turmoil her characters face. It did not matter whether the protagonist was selkie or human or witch, the honest words that come pouring out of their mouth will ring true in any reader's heart.

    "Yes, but only because... Down there, you see, I did not care and I did not feel. Whereas here-" I laid my head on my arms; he would only have been able to see the rounded-over back of me beyond the table now. "Here it is all feeling and caring, and it makes me so tired." (271)

    If Lanagan's selkies can lure the men, her hauntingly decadent writing can very well lure me into the sea. Fans of Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races will undoubtedly want to pick up this book.

    - Michelle of The Twins Read

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2013

    Book

    This is an interesting book. There is no hard language no explicit sex scenes no sorcery or evil spirits but it is a good book. I am not going to lie and say this is the best book ive ever read but it sure is a better book that ive read. I dont really know how else to discribe it. It does remind me of the scorpio races a little bit but this story is definitly not the scorpio races. It is told from six different points of veiws but it helps the story. It is good. Read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    Interesting

    It was interesting and weird all at once.

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    Posted April 8, 2014

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    Posted July 2, 2013

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    Posted June 14, 2013

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    Posted February 18, 2013

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