Burn Bright Book Club: Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan
On remote Rollrock Island, the sea-witch Misskaella discovers she can draw a girl from the heart of a seal. So, for a price, any man might buy himself a bride; an irresistibly enchanting sea-wife. But what cost will be borne by the people of Rollrock – the men, the women, the children – once Misskaella sets her heart on doing such a thing?
Margo Lanagan weaves an extraordinary tale of desire and revenge, of loyalty, heartache and human weakness, and of the unforeseen consequences of all-consuming love.
I have the Australian edition so it’s been illustrated and designed by Zoë Sadokierski. Before reading the book, the cover art isn’t as allusive as it is afterwards. It’s depicting 3 women amongst bubbles and seaweed.
This is a tough one for me because I wanted to slap so many of them. However amongst the morons there are small joys to be found.
Daniel Mallett. One of only 2 men in the whole book who weren’t complete grubs. You’ll have to find out why for yourself. I don’t want to wreck it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.
Where to begin? Who to pick? Wow, so many choices. I think I’ll pick Mister Mallett, Daniel’s father. For Trudle. Again, it’ll give too much away if I tell exactly why.
The children of Rollrock Island are collecting Sea Hearts for their Mothers along the beach and run into the crazy old witch Misskaella.
Misskaella’s gift is bringing forth humans from seals. This skill changes the dynamics of Rollrock Island.
Not what I expected.
I know this is based on the Selkie mythos, and the brutality of all consuming love. But I think it should also be read as a message, to not allow anyone to take away your true nature. Only when you are being the real you, and allowing those around you to be the real them, will you find real happiness.
I adored Sea Hearts and its tragic message. I was sucked into the story from the first page and thought it was rather special to have chapters separated by individual works of art.
I’m glad there are a few characters who could snub their nose at what’s expected of them and they were able to rise above.
“You are, aren’t you?” I said. “A girl?” Daniel Mallett to Lory Severner
The cover of The Brides of Rollrock Island looks amazing! I love the ocean in the back and foreground. But the most important thing for me has to be that covers need to give readers a subtle hint about what the story inside may be like. I don’t really get too much of that from this very pretty cover; the ocean does give a hint to it being an island, but I felt like something was just missing.
When reviewing a book, especially one that I really liked, I enjoy talking a lot about the good components of the story, and a little of the bad. I can’t believe that in a book, I couldn’t put down and finished in less than four days, I disliked so many characters, for various reasons.
My favorite would have to be either Misskaella because I love any characters who can do something out of the ordinary, and she has a very special ability. If Misskaella wasn’t my favorite, it would have to be Daniel, simply because he isn’t a pervert, or horn dog!
Since there are so many characters that I didn’t really like I don’t feel right mentioning one and not the other. But even though I didn’t like some of these characters, they truly are what created the setting for this story, what made the characters I did like, shine even brighter.
The beginning was really confusing to me, just because of the way things were said, laid out and described. One day a witch, named Misskaella is discovered, along with her ability to take a seals heart and transform into most beautiful women.
As word spreads fast, a man visits Misskaella and asks her for a favour – to change a seal into a women, so he can marry her. The man offers Misskaella a large sum of money, but this won’t be the only pay she gets!
There’s absolutely no way of explaining this ending without giving away more than half of the story!
I would have to say The Brides of Rollrock was a pretty dense book. It did take some reading and re-reading for me. The words and descriptions are just a little unknown to me and something I’m not used to reading. But once I got comfortable with the words, I could really start enjoying the story itself. The book is also organized very differently than books I’ve read before; instead of using chapters, the book is divided into different sections. Each of these sections follows a different person and their experiences with the witch Misskaella, somehow interweaving with one another.
But with all of this, The Bride of Rollrock, was something I’ve never read before, and I’m really glad I did.
I am a fan of the David Fickling Books cover and the girl laying there at the edge of the water really encompasses the theme of the story. But I have to say that I am not a fan of the title change. I think that Sea Hearts appeals more to me, although I couldn’t pin point exactly why.
The novel encompasses a few generations of families that reside on Rollrock – the constant being The Witch.
I think this is the first time that I cannot pinpoint a favourite character. Throughout the story I found flaws in all of them, mostly selfishness and wasn’t able to fully embrace any one over the other.
My choice would have to be the Witch Misskaella for sure. From the beginning of the story she could foresee what could happen in the future if she proceeded with the wishes. But the pull of money and perhaps the desire to be needed amongst the Islanders was a stronger force for her.
After a mermaid shows up on land, the villagers treat her like an exhibit. But it also arouses more than just curiosity to a local boy who decides to ask Misskaella to provide him with a mermaid as a bride. She takes it under consideration before submitting to his request. Misskaella knows that once it happens, all men on the island will want one of these gorgeous brides of their own, triggering a domino effect.
The story jumps from past to present and future. Starting with the beginnings of Miskaella’s story, the reader learns of how the connection with the Selkie’s began and continues on to all of the men showing interest in marrying all Selkie brides, and the effect that has on their children and the human women in the island.
It was nice to see the story come full circle. The reader gets different perspectives on the story of the island from people that were there as well as the stories the children grow up hearing; and even the views of the people on the mainland and the rumours that come to them from the island itself.
I have only read one other story pertaining directly to Selkie lore. They do differ from your typical mermaid story because they are technically not mermaids but can easily be confused as such. This story really focuses on describing in detail what a Selkie is; the transformation and relationships with humans from the human perspective. It was very interesting.
“How different other families were, the shape of them, the things they presumed, the children that grew up in them.”
Author’s Website: http://amongamidwhile.blogspot.com.au/
Paperback, 343 pages
Published February 2012 by Allen & Unwin (first published January 10th 2012)