Review: Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

Margo Lanagan is my newest inspiration, I must disclose. I bought Red Spikes on a whim and was blown away by the stories it contained. I bought Black Juice and White Time, and knowing there was a novel about selkies coming out, I waited somewhat impatiently.

I’m not entirely sure why Margo Lanagan gets put in the Young Adult category. While I’m not disputing they make fascinating reading for younger audiences, they are equally magical to read as an adult-adult. It makes me sad to think of all the bookloving adults who might pass on her work, fearing the material too young or simple for them. Far from it, Lanagan often explores topics that cause unease and leave the reader feeling as though they have delved into a world full of richer meaning. Sea Hearts is no different, although told from mostly children’s viewpoints.

I was bemused to read a review that seemed to imply the book’s simple language was a result of its young adult status. Simple? The perspective might be innocent and childish in some cases, but Margo Lanagan’s use of language is exemplary. Her prose is evocative and beautiful, bringing the senses alive. The imagery conjured by her imagination leaves you wanting more.

The story. Oh so poignant, I found the section narrated by Misskaella left me feeling wounded. I read with my baby boy snuggled against me and imagined myself as Misskaella, and could empathise with her bitterness.

I realise I haven’t given much clue as to the contents of this book… it’s a tale about selkies, the weakness of men, the love of a child for his suffering mother, and the tensions of being female in a male-dominated society. It’s not a romance, it’s a journey through hurt, relationships, revenge, suffering and righting wrongs. I adored this book. Read it! (And read her short stories too… I’m still waiting on my copy of Yellowcake).

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4 thoughts on “Review: Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

  1. I’m so interested in this book, having read Black Juice and Tender Morsels — yet I can not seem to find it on sale anywhere.
    Thank you for your tempting review.
    When I read Tender Morsels I felt the same as you, regarding “WHY” is this book listed and categorized as Young Adult?
    It’s as adult-adult as anything could be!

    • I thought I wouldn’t be able to find it but it was in the young adult fiction section of Dymocks (I had some credit left on a gift card). Might be time for some online ordering? šŸ™‚

  2. I loved this as well – Lanagan’s stories are so effective because they operate at a darker, more ancient and primal level of fairytale.

    It’s worth keeping in mind if you were thinking of buying the book from somewhere like Book Depository, that “Sea Hearts” has an alternative title outside of Australasia- “The Brides of Rollrock Island”. Why they changed it for the US/UK market I don’t know- “Sea Hearts” is so much more evocative.

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