The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

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The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A haunting, vivid, earthy story of sea-wives from one of the most exciting young adult authors around. If you like your magic wild and dangerous and abandoned, don't miss it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: February 2012
Publisher: David Fickling
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0857560336

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

On Rollrock Island, the fishermen find their brides from the sea through the usurial offices of the witch Miskaella. They're selkies; seal women who shed their skins to become human. Their husbands are obsessed by them and the men without a selkie will risk anything to become part of the enchantment, even their human wives and children and half their lifetime earnings. Soon there are no human women left on Rollrock - the adults to the mainland and the female selkie babies to the ocean. There are just dads and mams and little boys.

But magic comes at an even greater cost than the fishermen have conceived. The lovely brides long for the sea and their seal skins must be locked away. And the love is drowned by grief and loss and lies, while each chink of light is remorselessly extinguished by a witch consumed by cruelty and bitterness...

I could attach a review full of complimentary adjectives to The Brides of Rollrock Island but I'll try to stick to a reasonable list: powerful, beautiful, dangerous, unsettling, truthful, earthy, challenging, poetic, wonderful, absorbing. I can't recommend it highly enough. Margo Lanagan has a unique, uncompromising and lyrical voice and she brings it to the folk myth of selkies in a soaring journey of passion and pain. I can't do it justice at all, and frankly, I feel quite embarrassed to try, so just read it, ok?

I would like to have a moan. I think Margo Lanagan is one of the most exciting, individual authors around, and I'm just so glad she's decided to write literary books for young people. I want her to write lots of books. I keep up with her blog (link in the infobox on the right) and found it very disheartening to discover that she can't write fiction full-time. Her books aren't commercial enough. Ok, they aren't genre-tastic and they probably won't sell in their millions, but they are important books of startling originality and quality. They are transformative for the people who read them and Margo should be able to support herself by writing them. It seems unequal rewards permeate every sphere of our lives, not just banking. Meh.

Anyway. Read this selkie novel. It's heartstoppingly gorgeous. And you won't find anyone else with a voice like Margo's.

Don't miss Red Spikes or Tender Morsels, also by Lanagan. For more slightly dangerous, unnerving writing, you should look out The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric. We also enjoyed Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan if you're in the mood for short stories.

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Buy The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan at


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