29. The Mermaid by Christina Henry

My sister got me this book for my birthday. I’d heard great things about Christina Henry and was interested so see where she’d take this classic story. It was also interesting to read about P.T. Barnum in a light that wasn’t glamourised by Hollywood.

Synopsis (as taken from the back of the book) is as follows:

Once there was a fisherman who lived on a cold and rocky coast and was never able to convince any woman to come away and live in that forbbiding place with him. One evening he pulled up his net and found a woman in it. A woman with black hair and eyes as grey as a stormy sea and a gleaming fish’s tail instead of legs.

The storm in her eyes rolled into his heart. She stopped her thrashing and crashing at his voice, though she did not understand his words. But her eyes had seen inside of him, and his lonliness caught her more surely than the net. So she stayed with him, and loved him, though he grew old, and she did not.

Remarks of this strange and unusual woman travelled from village to village and town to town, until they reached the ears of a man whose business was in the selling of the strange and unusual.

His name was P.T. Barnum, and he’d been looking for a mermaid.

Ability to read – It was very easy to get into this book and be able to understand what was happening. With the bases of the plot relating to The Little Mermaid, I felt I had an advantage to understand the language used and be able to keep up with what I was reading. The flow of the story was very smooth and kept me reading on. At no point did I have to stop or read back a sentence to understand. I got absorbed into the pages very early on and enjoyed the ease that came with reading this book.

Characterisation – The character of the mermaid, or Amelia as she’s referred to in the book, was complex and yet had many layers that I felt I could connect to. She was more defined that the original ‘little mermaid’, had hopes and dreams of her own and had a determination that could be envied. She was definitely a headstrong character who was perfectly in control of her life but still open to seeing the human world in all its glory and all its hardship.

Seeing P.T. Barnum featured in this story was an interesting concept. I knew about him prior to ‘The Greatest Showman’ and though I love that film, knew it heavily embellished his life and placed him as a glorified good version of himself. I was eager to read him as a closer version of who he was in real life and Christina Henry wrote him in a very compelling light. I felt her portrayal of him was raw and real and though I may not have liked some of his character actions, I enjoyed that his actions came without issue. I felt like I was being exposed to more of the man he was in real life rather than the man he became in the film.

Visualisation – I found it very easy to visualise what was happening here. It helped that I have visited some of the places mentioined in the book and that I had the knowledge of ‘The Greatest Showman’ and previous ‘The Little Mermaid’ stories to help guide my way through this book. Interestingly the take of mermaids that Christina Henry pushed here reminded me of the film ‘The Shape of Water’ except I greatly enjoyed reading Chistina Henry’s The Mermaid, whereas ‘The Shape of Water’ creeped me out a little. The take on mermaids was different here than what I was used to when thinking of that word, but it made the character stronger and make the reactions to her appear real and untainted.

Uniqueness – Christina Henry has a magical ability to take a story trampled on by so many people and still manage to make it unique and interesting. I didn’t feel like I was reading a repeated story or that I was trapped in a cliche or stereotype. I felt like I’d been transported into something fresh and new. I found the story an addictive read, devouring the pages like a mad woman. I would thouroughly recommend this book.

Hannah xoxo

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