Book Review: Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan


360 pages
Published 2012 by Allen & Unwin Australia

Greetings Brave Adventurers,

Margo Lanagan is at it again. She disarms with her lyrical prose, immerses me head-first into her story, skews the borders between real and imagined and tells a tale with depth and emotion. The result is a haunting tale of love and loss, of belonging and revenge, of gender inequality and ownership. Of wild things and free.

Drawing heavily on selkie folklore for inspiration, Sea Hearts weaves the tale of a witch who can draw forth women from seals. The seawives are spellbinding and irresistible – the  ‘perfect object’. But there is a price to pay for taming the untamable.

Sea Hearts has a lot to say beneath the tale of sorrow. Lanagan gives voice to the witch herself, and through her eyes we see a world that values women only for their beauty, and leaves no place for those who do not conform. I could feel no anger towards the witch, but rather felt the finger of blame pointed towards the men who so carelessly discarded their old wives for seawives, and then let them live so unhappily.

Lanagan will not appeal to all. Her language is complex, artistic and surprising. This is a world where sound smears and wrinkles follow lips. It also doesn’t feel traditionally plotted, with multiple perspectives of varying length. Yet the world she invokes is so atmospheric, so rich, so deep, not so much a novel, as an experience. It caught me in its spell, mesmerized me – and I was as powerless to resist as the men of Potshead themselves, putting aside my nightly tasks so that I could swallow this morsel whole.

10 out of 10 wild dragons

10 dragons

Margot Lanagan - and two of her awards!
Here’s me, Margo Lanagan – and two of her awards!


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