Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... The Brides of Rollrock Island

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... The Brides of Rollrock Island

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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!

22 comments:

  1. Okay, I finished this last night! I also enjoyed the selkie folk lore, this is the first work I have read which centers around them. I loved the magical aspects of the book, and I loved that it was dark and sad, and made me feel sympathetic towards certain characters and angry at the same time. And there were parts that I anticipated and other parts that really took me by surprise! And Miskaella. Wow, what an unforgettable character. And the writing! So beautiful! Let's discuss further:)

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  2. I haven't heard of this book before, but it sounds really interesting. Thanks for the fantastic review!!

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  3. Sigh. Those excerpts are so gorgeous. I do so love stories in which the words are woven so pretty, that if rearranged, they could be poetry verses. I think I already added this to my TBR list but it may now get a bump up. Thanks for the review!

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    1. The writing is beautiful. The way the story is crafted is really original. I can't say that this book really feels like YA to me, but I liked it.

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  4. The writing does seem very lyrical. I'm not sure how I feel about that, since I'm not really into poetry, but hopefully it won't bother me.
    I don't think I've read a book with interconnected stories, but I'll think I'll really enjoy it. I'm not too familiar with Selkie Mythology either, but I'm curious to see what it's all about.
    Wonderful review! I'm definitely looking forward to this one. :)

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  5. Oh, like your review! :) To be honest, The Brides of Rollrock Island didn't seem very interesting to me at first, but if you say its good, I might give it a chance! I do like selkies after all. :D Thanks for the review!

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    1. If you like folktales and fairy tales, like dark books, multiple POVs -- definitely give it a try!

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  6. I have had this one in my sights for a bit now, eager to hear your thoughts. The crazy things is now, I'm not so sure it's for me.

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  7. Gosh Jen this sounds good, the cover is kinda creepy. I am so glad you enjoyed this one and I added it to my wish list. You really need a blog button, so i can add you to my blogs I stalk. If want to make one - i have the codes and can help if you have an image..just email me.

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    1. At first I had the Australian cover on my post by mistake -- but I think this is the right one!

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  8. This looks so good. I'm really looking forward to reading it. the cover kind of creeps me out in a good way and I'm glad that I know going in that it is told through interconnected stories.

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  9. Haha, I'm so glad we finally all had the chance to finish this, and I'm so excited to discuss it with you and Heather! I agree with you on all of the points you mentioned here, the setting is stunning, the mythology beautiful (I'm a lover of Celtic folklore), and the disconnected stories build on one another perfectly.

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    1. Our email discussion was so much fun. I can't wait to do it again!

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  10. What a neat sounding book-I'm always on the lookout for standalone non-realistic fiction and this one sure fits the bill. I'm not the biggest fan of selkie stories (or any mythical creatures around the water) but this just might change my mind.

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    1. I'm with you -- have never been a fan of selkie or mermaid stuff, but this one is really unexpected.

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  11. Oh my, Jen, this looks so good! I love the quotes you pulled and the novel sounds truly unique!
    Too bad your readalong got cancelled :/

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    1. Well, we did an email chat, which was a lot of fun.

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