I just finished reading another Margo Lanagan book: Sea Hearts. Her writing is so beautiful, and this story is a dark, haunting, fantastic fairy-tale with a powerful, richly developed, complex central character: Misskaella the sea-witch. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:
Rollrock island is a lonely rock of gulls and waves, blunt fishermen and their homely wives. Life is hard for the families who must wring a poor living from the stormy seas. But Rollrock is also a place of magic – the scary, salty-real sort of magic that changes lives forever. Down on the windswept beach, where the seals lie in herds, the outcast sea witch Misskaella casts her spells – and brings forth girls from the sea – girls with long, pale limbs and faces of haunting innocence and loveliness – the most enchantingly lovely girls the fishermen of Rollrock have ever seen.
But magic always has its price. A fisherman may have and hold a sea bride, and tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she is. He will be equally ensnared. And in the end the witch will always have her payment.
Margo Lanagan has written an extraordinary tale of desire, despair and transformation. In devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals unforgettable characters capable of unspeakable cruelty – and deep unspoken love. After reading about the Rollrock fishermen and their sea brides, the world will not seem the same.
More than anything, I found it disturbing and incredibly sad. Also, because I’ve just written a lecture on psychoanalytic criticism of literature, I find myself wanting to write about Misskaella, her desires, her anxieties, her motivations, her repression, her body… but as I am engrossed in doing this with another fictional character right now, I’ll just let the ideas sit in my unconscious for a while…