The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Usually selkie stories do nothing for me, but this one? I loved the writing and the twist on the tale. In another year, this could have been my top YA fiction read, but there is Code Name Verity to contend with...
This is told through varying voices, none of them the so-called sea-mum's. We hear from Misskaella, the 'ugly' child in her family, the throwback to a past that may (or may not) have included some contact with the seals who surround Rollrock Island. As a small child she creates unrest among the seal population and learns to protect herself, and them, by crossing fabric over her front and back. Later, she learns to separate the human from the seal - at first the bull, then the cows. And then a local asks that she get him a wife.
And that's all that's needed to turn Rollrock into an outsider community: the women all come from the sea, and the only children on the island are boys. No one off island knows what happens to the girl children (if there are any) and all the non-sea women living on the island moved away. Because this is a new(ish) book, I won't talk about the ending except to say that it was very satisfying and slightly unexpected.
As I said, the writing really sets the place and the mindset of these people. I could imagine myself on Rollrock, which appears to be somewhere off Ireland (given the number of redheaded characters). And if a selkie story can keep my interest, that's saying quite a lot!