Welcome back to Standalone Saturday, a feature in which I highlight a book that does not have a sequel or a prequel. Today's pick:
The Brides of Rollrock Island
by Margo Lanagan
Expected publication date: September 11, 2012
by Knopf BFYR
Source: e-ARC from NetGalley. Here's my FTC disclosure statement.
My summary: On Rollrock Island, seals sun themselves on rocky beaches and children try to avoid the evil eye of old Misskaela the sea witch. Misskaela was once a young girl with hopes and dreams, a girl who consorted with selkies and paid a price. Now she sells selkie brides to the men of Rollrock, a choice that has devastating impact on the island.
My take: This is the first book I have read by Margo Lanagan, and it will definitely not be the last. From its first pages, The Brides of Rollrock Island captivated me with its hypnotically beautiful prose.
"I saw that the ... woman rising from the skin of a seal was no fancy, that the crumbs of story ... people dropped all fitted together, much as these grains did, and made a history -- a history that might be repeated if such as I happened along."The Brides of Rollrock Island is a series of interconnected stories, each one narrated by a different island resident. If each of these stories is a like a bead on a string, Misskaela is the strand that links them all together. Her character links all the others, and a choice she makes will affect the island for generations:
"All the years to come crowded into that time, and I lived them, long and bitter and empty of him. The rightness of what I had done, and the wrongness both, they tore at me and repaired me, and tore again, and neither of them was bearable."I'm a fan of books told through interconnected stories from different points of view. In this book, the technique works brilliantly. From the story of Misskaela the sea witch to that of women whose husbands and fathers take selkie lovers, to the son of a selkie, each individual story is an important part of the larger whole.
The setting was another highlight of this book. As in many of my favorite books, the setting of The Brides of Rollrock Island is vivid and evocative -- almost another character in the story. Mythology and folkore are also an integral part of this tale. I'm fairly familiar with Greek mythology, but I'm not all that well-versed in selkie lore. According to Wikipedia, selkie stories are found in Scotland, Iceland, Denmark, and Ireland.
The Brides of Rollrock Island is a lyrical tale of revenge, betrayal, forgiveness and hope. Try it if you're a fan of unconventional narrative style, intergenerational stories, folklore, and beautiful writing!
A note: Heather @ Flyleaf Review, Heidi @ Bunbury in the Stacks and I planned to do some sort of Brides of Rollrock Island read along. Then Heather lost her power in a storm, I was on a long plane ride and needed to read, and the three of us got a bit out of sync. I hope we'll do a joint discussion post on this book sometime soon!