Reviewed by Pauline Chandler
In this breathtaking story of the selkies, the seal women conjured from the sea, Margo Lanagan creates places and characters that stay in the mind long after you’ve finished reading. Rollrock and Cordlin represent two different ways of life: the one an island where men struggle to make a living from the capricious sea, fighting harsh weather and poor soil to keep body and soul together, the other a mainland town with all the so-called advantages of modern life and progress, painted by Lanagan in period colours, with an Edwardian feel.
As different characters step forward to tell the story, we are taken on a amazing, heart-wrenching journey, when the witch of Rollrock, shunned and despised by the others from birth, wreaks a cruel revenge.
lonely, bullied Miskaella discovers her power to draw the seals from the sea.
In a tender love scene, beautifully written, she couples with a sealman and
becomes his wife. Her powers grow until she can bring forth lovely young girls
from the seals, girls whom the men of Rollrock will pay a lifetime’s wages to
take as wives. Rollrock Island
The story flows forward, over several seemingly peaceful years, where the life of the men on Rollrock, spellbound by the witch, live in families with their seal wives and half-seal children, a way of life that is also accepted, from afar, by those on the mainland. But nobody from Cordlin visits Rollrock. Children are forbidden to speak of it. Change comes from Rollrock itself, when one of the island boys starts to ask questions and the truth emerges, with terrifying consequences. .
This is an outstanding novel, told in language that sparkles with fresh images on every page. Extraordinary and highly recommended.
For competent readers aged 12+
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