Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Brides of Rollrock Island

The Brides of Rollrock Island
Alrighty, I finally finished The Brides of Rollrock Island (It didn't take me such a long time to read because I wasn't enjoying it.  Actually, I was enjoying it too much).

I am counting it for my:

Not because the females are so terribly strong and good role models, (they aren't really) but because I think it says such provacative things about the way in which women are treated.

Women in this novel are not treated well.  You have Misskaela, the "witch" (and the closest thing this novel gets to a main character - which is not very close) who is bullied and ridiculed by both men and women and especially her family.  How does she react to this?  She uses her powers to bring up women out of seals to marry the men of Rollrock Island.  So she is partly responsible for the hideous treatment of the women, (although the men share a big part of the responsibility!) These seal women are the heart and soul of the novel (even if none of them are entirely fleshed-out as characters).  The way the men of Rollrock Island treat them is abominable.  They tear them away from their true selves, hide everything that would allow them back to those selves, and basically keep them kidnapped on land even though their deepest desire is to return to the sea.  This seems like a fairly straightforward indictment against these men.  BUT BUT BUT, Lanagan (being Lanagan) throws in enough wrenches to make the area a bit gray.   There are repeated references to the seal women enchanting the men.  Is this accurate?  Or is it just an excuse made by the characters to justify their horrible acts? (I tend to think the latter).  Some have challenged the novel for what it says about men: that what they really truly want is women who are merely beautiful and completley docile.  I don't think Lanagan is saying this about all men, though, just about the men on Rollrock.  It's something of a gang mentality, to me.  One man decided having a seal wife would be amazing, and then all the others wanted what he had, and then they became a insular group, and the seal wives became their secret, their property.  You don't see any mainland men racing to Rollrock to get these placid wives.  I don't even know what I'm trying to say here.  This is a terribly difficult novel about which to articulate feelings.  Basically, I think, what the novel says to me is: It's easy to justify anything in the name of "love".  It's a stirring examination of men holding power over women, not based on any animosity, but because they desire them so completely that they refuse to see them as autonomous creatures.

In addition to the theme, this is just a stellar piece of writing.  The sentences are masterfully put together, (believe me, you'll be underlining every other paragraph).  The characters are so sympathetic, even as they remain ciphers.  The setting is bold and fully-realized.  Maybe my favorite book by Lanagan.  I already want to read it again.

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