The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan; published 2012 by Alfred Knopf
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Review in a word: Weird
Opening line: “‘The old witch is there,’ said Raditch, peering over the top to Six-Mile Beach.”
That’s a good question. I can’t really say that there’s a plot in this book, so I’ll just try to describe what happens.
Our story begins narrated by Daniel Mallet, a young boy on Rollrock Island, from whom we learn that there’s an old scary witch named Misskaella, and there’s something weird going on with the mams (moms) on the island. And there only seem to be boys on the island.
We then switch to Misskaella, and we learn that she has a magical connection to the seals who congregate on Rollrock’s shore. First of all, the seals follow her around unless she wraps her body in seaweed. Second of all, she can sense that there are people inside the seals, and by singing a magical song she can coax the people out of their seal-coats. The seal-people are beautiful, and Misskaella is terrifyingly ugly, so she coaxes a man out of a male seal to be her lover for one night. Nine months later she has a baby and has to put it in the ocean to be raised by the seals because it is failing to thrive on land. The sadness makes her bitter, but through this experience she finds a way to make a living for herself.
The story then switches to a few men and boys on the island. The men have all paid Misskaella to get seal-wives for them. The seal-wives are beautiful and perfectly subservient—the perfect wives—except for the fact that they’re not happy. They will never feel happy until they’re back in the ocean.
I didn’t like this book. It wandered. It depicted women coming out seals, and boys being made into seals (by having seaweed sewn around them). This may very well be a reflection on me more than it is on the book. I’ve never understood a lot of the made up worlds of fantasy. I’m just not sure what the point is. And that’s how I felt about this book.
Recommend? Mmmm… no.