I doubt few things are more interesting or appealing than mythical creatures whose intention it is to destroy men. Fewer things are more timeless than destruction, seduction, and curiosity.
What could be more timeless than the mermaid whose purpose it was to drive men mad in the pursuit of them? And then the countless attempts at recreating these creatures in legends and curiosity exhibits?
The few books in this post to sample the topic of mermaids treat them all differently. And it does not include all the mermaid books I would like to read or all the circus/sideshow reads in my book hoarding situation.
The Mermaid’s Sister, Carrie Ann Noble
This was a either a Kindle First or a discounted price treasure and was the winner of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2014 for Young Adult fiction.
This one is as magical and mythical as a mermaid story gets. It is a fairy tale with the usual dose of nefarious characters and intentions, magic, and larger than life characters. Two girls raised as sisters and one is becoming the mermaid she was meant to be, making the other sister, who is trying to get her to the ocean where she belongs out of love, wonders what this means for her. Is she meant to turn into a stork, like her own legend of origin suggests? What about the boy that is almost like a brother figure to her who is helping her try to save the sister and her feelings about him that just won’t be controlled? All sorts of drama, darkness, and magic. Characters in this one actually have tattoos to immunize themselves from the curse of madness that seeing a mermaid can set upon one. And some regular teenage crises too just to keep it real. I liked the audio with this one, and I am not at all surprised that it stood out enough to get an award for being the new kid on the block.
The Book of Speculation, Erika Swyler
Also a debut novel, interestingly. Strong family themes (similarly to The Mermaid’s Sister) in this tale of mystery and an inter-generational family curse that has to be untangled in time to save the latest generation from the same fate. A librarian comes into possession of a book that helps him to unravel the reason why his mother and grandmother, both with mermaid abilities to swim and perform in a traveling show, seemed to drown themselves on the same day. Again, the mermaid’s otherworldly, obsessive appeal is also talked about here as well as the mermaid being part of a show. Because what else would a woman with an uncanny swimming ability and in need of support do with herself back in times past? Especially a woman to whom men felt an unexplainable draw? There is also a lot of reference to Tarot and reading Tarot cards to amp up the atmospheric mystery. Sara Gruen endorses the novel on the cover, and people who like Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants and At the Water’s Edge) will probably like this one too. And the ending has just a bit of a twist on it. So, worth the time. I also have the prequel that I didn’t get to in time for this post. Shame on me.
The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman
I coveted this one for awhile before it came up on an Audible sale and I snagged it. Alice Hoffman is an author who I have hoarded up, and this one reminded me of why and that I need to get crackin through all her other stuff. It was one I was excited to procure, that I had not read yet which could be a Reading Challenge category.
While this one is more popular than some of hers (I am defining popular by the number of reviews I see on Amazon), it does not appear to be as much so as The Dovekeepers or The Marriage of Opposites. This one just hinted right at the get go of being atmospheric, set in turn of the century NYC, one of my favorite novel settings for some reason, and it did not disappoint. Have I mentioned before in my posts that NYC always has had this draw for me and for about ten minutes a year I think I could actually live there, when I currently live in a beautiful home in the country and driving to the nearby small cities can get overwhelming for me? A home where I regularly enjoy the benefits of living where I do? Yeah. Then I am down there visiting a friend and I see children my son’s age boarding the subway and I have a panic attack imagining if that was me with my boy.
Alice Hoffman intersects personal histories in the context of the setting like only she can do. A girl born with webbed fingers to a man who owns a sideshow museum and is groomed for performance as a mermaid in a tank, essentially as a prisoner, a Jewish boy who separates from his father after his father tries to commit suicide, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster, and the intense political climate of the haves and have nots. There usually aren’t even ten minutes of the year where I want to live in turn of the century NYC, but I love to read the tales of immigration, coming of age in a fast changing but still traditional world, people trying to hang onto their personal history as well as responding to the world around them in order to survive.
This book was everything I wanted it to be. Engrossing, intense, painfully real. I listened to it during driving in the rain which seemed to intensify it even more.
Mermaid books that I can’t miss? None of these are romance novels, and I thought I saw some romance novels in the mermaid category, which would make sense, given then are supposed to drive men crazy.
In my own mermaid moment it is finally warm enough to swim in the lake with a wetsuit. The fact I own a wetsuit and like to swim in lakes makes me ultimately unsuitable for my NYC dreams. I don’t feel like a siren, either, just a woman wrapped in some weird fabric trying not to dead sea float for long enough for the neighbors to think I might be dead out there.
Comments/suggestions/shares? I always love them.