Sea Hearts (Australia) or The Brides of Rollrock Island (UK, US) by Margo Lanagan

sea hearts On Rollrock island, all the mams look alike—tall and slender, with big dark eyes and long dark hair. They sing strange songs and they line their windowsills with shells and sea grass. Their anxious husbands and sons do everything they can to distract them from the melancholy that rises up within them whenever they stand at the edge of the sea, but they can never fully erase the pain that fills their women’s deep dark eyes as they gaze longingly out at the waves. Even as a little girl, Misskaella was never really accepted by the rest of the Rollrock folk with her odd features and power to see behind reality’s thin veil. So when she discovers her ability to convert the seals that gather on Rollrock’s shore into beautiful women, she quickly utilizes it to bring the village men to their knees. Bewitched by the seal maids, the fishermen are powerless to resist their passive charms, and under their enchantment, the men eventually abandon or drive away all the strong-willed, decisive “land” women from the tiny island community. Only mad Misskeella is left, knitting the mams seaweed blankets and perversely enjoying the wretched society she has created where no one who truly understands the sacrifice the mams are making for their families is happy. But one boy can bear the sadness no longer. And his actions cause another quiet revolution on Rollrock that will alter the island yet again in ways that not even the witch Misskaella can control.

Master fantasy author Margo Lanagan takes the legend of the selkie and uses it to adroitly illuminate the darkest corners of the human heart. Rich themes of loyalty, acceptance, betrayal and revenge emerge from her exquisite prose that is itself a dazzling wonder. Each section is voiced by a different player in this tragedy, and uncovers another layer in a story that is less a romance and more about mother love. The sons of Rollrock broke my heart. When you are born with one foot on land and one in the sea, how do you decide your destiny? Which parent do you stand by when to help one will destroy the other? Once the boys know the secret sorrow of their mams’ cast-off seal skins, they can’t unknow it, and it kills them: “They were not costumes; they were peeled-off parts of our mothers; without them, how could our mams be themselves, their real selves, their under-sea selves, the selves they were born into? They walked about on land with no protection, from the cold or from our dads falling in love with them, or from us boys needing them morning and night.” Like Misskaella’s magic, Lanagan’s elegant prose is transformative–I promise you will be a different person after having experienced it. When I look back at her body of work, the consistency of her genius is stunning, and each title that comes out is my new favorite. Sea Hearts is no exception. Put this sublimely sad tome on your must-read list NOW. Coming to a library, bookstore or e-reader near you September 2012. (But if you simply can’t wait, this book has already been published in Australia and the UK.)

3 thoughts on “Sea Hearts (Australia) or The Brides of Rollrock Island (UK, US) by Margo Lanagan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *