Apr. 16th, 2012

lizabelle: (Book and sea)
My second book for the Australian Women Writers challenge was Margo Lanagan's Sea Hearts, published internationally as The Brides of Rollrock Island. I'm afraid this isn't going to be so much a review as an "I adored this book and please everyone read it" post, but I will link to a couple of other reviews to compensate.

I knew I was in for a treat from the opening pages of this book, when I found myself highlighting passages because I loved the evocative writing so much. Like this: "The sea was grey with white dabs of temper all over it; the sky hung full of ragged strips of cloud." I do enjoy a book that really makes me relish the language as I read.

But it takes more than inventive writing to make me fall in love. Lanagan quickly sets an elegiac mood with the opening chapter, which takes us into an island world in which a group of boys roams the shore looking for "sea hearts" to appease their mothers, watched bitterly by the old witch, Misskaella.

We soon learn that Misskaella, an abused, disregarded girl with a strange affinity for the local seal population, has found a terrible way of gaining agency in the community.

But the story isn't just about one deprived woman's need for agency; it is also about what happens when the men in a community reject real, human relationships in favour of other, more passive ones in which their partners have no agency. It's about the implications for that community, for the rejected women and the men themselves, for the children born of the various unions, and for "the mams" brought from the sea and prevented from returning.

It's a beautiful, thought-provoking, heartbreaking book, and I would love as many people as possible to read it. I just wish I could articulate why more clearly.

A couple more reviews that do the book better justice than I can: from Sean the Bookonaut and Krissy Kneen.

Edition I read: Kindle ebook. Margo Lanagan blogs at Among Amid While.


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