Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan is a hauntingly beautiful novel. Totally unique with a compelling storyline, it's an absorbing piece of speculative fiction.
Misskaella is the youngest in her family. Plagued by the belief that she is unfavourably different,
'all the world seemed intent on pointing out what I lacked.'
Misskaella suffers a lonely childhood, in a community where the focus is on looking and behaving the 'right' way in order to attract a husband.
'they set us against each other as you set chickens at a market'
Setting her apart even further is her growing realisation that she has something within her that is different to the other inhabitants of Rollrock Island. Misskaella has a connection to the seals, a strong all encompassing connection which draws them to her.
Upon discovering an unusual power - to conjure beautiful, enchanting women from the very soul of a seal - a shift in Misskaella's standing in the community occurs almost overnight.
Lanagan uses six different voices to convey her novel with great effect. The alternate viewpoints add layers of meaning whilst still maintaining an intriguing element of mystery and magic surrounding the very nature of Sea Hearts. Misskaella's own perspective is cleverly placed in the middle of the novel, once opinions of her have already been formed. Tellingly, none of the seal wives appear as a narrator ...
Rollrock Island is raged yet invigorating landscape, with Lanagan's atmospheric prose deftly recreating an island exposed to the harshness of the elements. Her ability to convey the power of the community and the landscape, isolated in many ways, is incredibly absorbing as Lanagan's narrative sweeps the reader along.
Sea Hearts is one of those novels which has been labelled as both YA and Adult fiction, deservedly so, as adults really wouldn't want to skip past this one. It has made the CBCA Shortlist 2013 and The Stella Prize shortlist 2013, in addition to being nominated for The Dublin Literary Award 2014.
Read our interview with Margo Lanagan here.
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A Reading Group Guide, produced by Allen & Unwin, can be viewed here.