The Brides of Rollrock Island

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Title: The Brides of Rollrock Island

Writer: Margo Lanagan

Publishing House: Knopf Books

Date of Publication: January 1st 2009

Rating: 5 stars

‘’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 can honestly say (one more time) that Marina knows me frighteningly well. If you love island communities, the Scottish landscape, myths and tales, witches, weird births, seals and selkies or if you just need to read a quality tale, then you need this book in your life.

But first, Let me take a selkie... #HappyStPatricksDay to all Irish Ex Mermaids!

In an island that definitely resembles the Scottish Hebrides, a community is torn asunder by Misskaella’s abilities to turn seals into beautiful, alluring, seemingly docile young women. Families and relationships are turned upside down. This is Misskaella’s way of exacting revenge for years of contempt and abuse, even from her own mother. She demonstrates the evil, the hypocrisy and ruthlessness of men, their willingness to put everything at risk because of an itch.

‘’The north road swung up over the cliff almost gaily, and we walked it up into the teeth of the wind, and it battered our hair and flapped our coat-collars. The sea on our left tossed moon-twinkles about, rushed and smashed at the cliffs, drummed in the road underfoot.’’

Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για stormy hebrides

Lanagan makes excellent use of the fairytales of the sea and the legends of the islands, focusing on the beloved myth of the selkie women. However, she develops the famous story and takes it one step further, in a brilliant twist of the ages-old legend. Furthermore, she brings the children of the selkie wives out of obscurity and gives them the chance to express their feelings of belonging to two worlds that are so close and so far away. Where do they belong? What is it that makes an island community so harsh and unforgiving? What happens when the laws of nature and its balance are violated because of men’s desires and endless ego?

"I have to go!" She cried. "They need me." "But so do I!" the boy screamed. "Farewell, brother," the girl whispered. She let go of his hand and fell into the raging sea.

Lanagan’s writing is excellent. She depicts the language of the islanders and the younger members of the community faithfully and vividly, the dialogue is flowing and natural. There are many beautiful descriptions of the island at night, the community of the seals, the fishing villages, the harsh domestic life as a responsibility of the resilient mams. There were quite a few moments that reminded me of Logan’s The Gloaming and this is the highest compliment for Lanagan’s beautiful novel.

From "MacCodram and his Seal Wife".  Artwork by Kate Leiper.

“MacCodram and his Seal Wife”. Artwork by Kate Leiper

The jewel of the story is Misskaella, a heroine that will stay with you. She is such an interesting character, so fierce and proud. The way she copes with her awful family and the heathens that surround her with their notions of propriety and their superstitions. I believe every thinking girl will find herself connected to her. She is the Witch, the ‘’Other’’, the one who doesn’t comply, the one who rebels.

The Brides of Rollrock Island is a novel rich in beautiful imagery, themes that require our attention as it happens in every well-written tale and a main character you will love.

‘’Complain? It’s only noise.’’

* Marina, I can’t thank you enough for this gem! Hvala ti! (If I didn’t get that right, someone will find himself in trouble…) *

10 Comments

  1. Sounds lovely, Amalia!

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    1. Thank you so much, Marialyce!

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  2. I think Marina recommended this one to me as well! I’ve just checked and it’s already on my Goodreads TBR which I’m pleased about as this appeals to me in huge ways. I’m looking forward to it when I get round to reading this!

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    1. Yes I did, and I hope you love it too! 🙂

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  3. Beautiful review Amalia! I was so scared you wouldn’t like it hehe. 🙂 In turn, I will read The Gloaming as soon as possible, because you know me so well too. 🙂 Lanagan is a superb writer and I’d love to hear your thoughts on Tender Morsels too, though that one is a few steps further into the dark and I can’t be sure if you’d like it as much as I did, but I won’t hold a grudge against you if you don’t. 🙂

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    1. Millions of thanks for recommending this to me, Marina! I’ve planned to read Tender Morsels around Christmas since it gives me a rather twisted, haunting vibe and I am almost 100% certain I will love it! I hope you’ll love ”The Gloaming”!

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      1. You’re welcome, I’m so glad you loved it. 🙂 Hehe you are right on Tender Morsels, though there are some difficult parts which deterred some readers but I still hope you’ll love it. 🙂 Oh I’m 100% sure I’ll love The Gloaming! 🙂

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      2. You know me 🙂 I am game for the utterly twisted, dark and devastating!!

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      3. Hehehe just like me, can’t wait to hear what you think! 😀

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