Reading Level: Young Adult
Size: 320 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: eGalley through NetGalley.com
Rating: 5/5 stars
I got a copy of this to review through NetGalley(dot)com. This was an absolutely wonderful book and now I want to go read everything else Margo Lanagan has written. The writing is beautiful and haunting and absolutely engrossing.
This is a series of short stories about the people who live on Rollrock Island. Misskaella is an ugly and fat girl who is treated cruelly by the people of Rollrock island. That is until the night Misskaella realizes that she can call out women from inside the seals of the island. The seal wives are beautiful beyond compare and the men of Rollrock will do anything to have a seal wife; but the seal wives are also eternally miserable as they as they are stuck in their human bodies. The men control the wives, but are in turn bespelled by the seal wives. This is the story of all of the years that Misskaella kept Rollrock island under the sad curse of the sea wives.
The prose this book is written in is absolutely stunning and the stories have a very dark and melancholy fairy tale feel to them. The descriptions are so well done that you can almost taste the sea as you read this book. The characters are amazing; they can show incredible love for each other and also be incredibly cruelty. It was interesting to have a story that explores both depths of human emotion so deeply.
Misskaella is a fascinating character. In the beginning you really hurt for her, everyone is so cruel to her even as a child. Eventually she turns into what they believe her to be an ugly, mean witch. All of the characters in the stories are fascinating in similar ways. The men of the island love their seal wives so deeply, yet these same men are so cruel in how they keep their wives from the sea.
Some of the stories explore how even when a family tries to move away from Rollrock Island, their son is still drawn into the trap of taking a seal wife and being stuck in the same pattern of life on the island that his parents were trying to avoid.
There is also wonderful symmetry to the story; the final story explores how (despite everything that has happened) once Misskaella is gone things slowly start to migrate back to normality and life goes on. Ironically it takes the children’s love to break the curse which was started with a husband’s love.
Overall a spectacular book, one of the best I have read in some time. The writing is incredibly beautiful and haunting; the story explores human nature and has a very melancholy, fairy tale type tone to it. The characters are complex and both beautiful and ugly. Highly recommended to everyone; especially those with an interest fairy tales and the selkie mythology. I want to go out right now and read everything else Lanagan has written.
This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
– 150+ Books Reading Challenge