Sea Hearts (alt. title: The Brides of Rollrock Island)
By Margo Lanagan, read by Eloise Oxer and Paul English
Published 2014 by Bolinda Audio
Misskaella discovers a powerful magic on remote Rollrock Island - she can make a woman from a seal. Soon, her seal-wives are in high demand by the men of the islands. But at what price?
I was really excited to see this title as one of this summer's Sync titles - this book got tons of buzz the year it was published and I thought it sounded really interesting. After reading one of Lanagan's short story collections (and enjoying it quite a bit), I was even more excited to read one of her novels and get a better sense of her writing.
When I first started listening, I was quite enchanted. Her way with words is evident and magical and the story reads like a very dark fairy tale - my favorite kind. I liked that Lanagan used multiple narrators and points of view to tell the strange story of Rollrock Island and its seal-wives. The multiple POVs were also quite confusing - not only are we navigating between characters, but we are moving between time periods. It's sometimes quite difficult to figure out where in the story we are situated at any given moment. This is especially tricky with an audio version of the story.
As the story continued, though, I began to wonder what the point was - and then I came to the end. There is no point. There isn't really a climax to this novel and, when readers get to the end, I'm not sure they'll feel like they're in a different place than where they began. So, while the writing is lovely, I don't normally enjoy prose for prose's sake - I also need a story I can lose myself in. This one just didn't work for me.