THE MERMAID, by Christina Henry, Berkley

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From the author of Lost Boy comes a historical fairy tale about a mermaid who leaves the sea for love and later finds herself in P.T. Barnum’s American Museum as the real Fiji mermaid. However, leaving the museum may be harder than leaving the sea ever was.

Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

P. T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he’s determined to hold on to his mermaid

Published: June 19, 2018

MY THOUGHTS:

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

I love the cover of this book and the size. It’s unusual and eye-catching. At the back is a Reader’s Guide which is nice to see.

There’s been so many mermaid stories published of late so I rarely am willing to review them now. However, the premise of this one caught my eye, hook, <cough>, line and sinker. 🙂

This is not a “Little Mermaid” retelling.  It is based on P.T.Barnum’s Circus and  social intrigue in the 1800s with the ‘unknown.’

During a time when archaeology was new and being established as a science, and searching for those hidden treasures was the latest and greatest fad.  The unexpected, unexplained and unknown, the triple ‘U’ threat was going strong and one could say, was even a bit out of control.  People like P.T. Barnum exploited this hype and fed into it by creating his ‘freak shows.’

Sadly, at this time when people were ‘different’ or suffered from illnesses not yet explored by medical science but often cruelly judged with superstitious ignorance, the only place for them to gain acceptance at any level and make a living, was to join such shows.  P.T. Barnum excitedly hunted these people down eagerly hoping he could draw them in to his scams of despicable exploitation.

This story shows yet another sad example of human depravity.

What the author does accomplish is putting together a well formulated story that does give insight into a life in a circus as a side-show. Henry also manages to create a beautiful, strong female character and does this by adding a feminist atmosphere.

I found it interesting how the Barnum depicted in this story was portrayed, although be it a bit off.  His character fit the story and the author’s voice was extraordinary in showing contrast in emotional reactions and understandings to this character’s actions. I suppose knowing the treatment of anyone who was thought different  back then and comparing this to the same situation of today, I found this paradox ironic when you see little difference between the two. This is sad.  I do believe what has changed drastically is the behavior of those who advocate and give voice to concerns of treatment surrounding the lives and care of said individuals. No longer are there secret institutions and places where families lock their ’embarrassments’ away to be forgotten and sterilized by ignorant back alley medical staff. Family is more supportive and society although still learning acceptance is less cruel when compared to back then.

Barnum’s attempt at justifying his actions back then by stating that because of his shows, he had given special folks a break in life, just goes to show a lack of conscience when concerned with the almighty dollar. In truth, he was really just lining his own pockets and justifying his actions with the meager wages he did pay these folks as earnings. The fact that he kept them near impoverish, left them dependent on him and his shows. Taking advantage of the disadvantage seems to be another lovely trait of human nature, especially seen in opportunists like Barnum.

So rant over, the author did do a great job with this book. She managed to weave a tale using a strong protagonist to expose many terrible aspects of human nature without killing a well-written fiction piece in the process.  Her amazing voice combined with a strong plot that moves along at a smooth and impacting pace captivated and engaged me to the end.  There is a vast array of emotional responses to be had from the story and when all twists and turns wrapped up at the end nicely, I was satisfied that I picked up this book to read.

Levi as a secondary character was a struggle for me.  He didn’t seem strong enough for such a dynamic protagonist at first, but I began to understand how his steady quietness was the strength that Amelia needed throughout the story.  What began as pity grew and changed and developed into something more. During this transition, a change in Amelia occurred, an important one for the story to continue to move forward. I thought this whole scenario was perfectly written.

The other thing that struck a chord with me was how the author showed humanity through Amelia’s eyes.  Her constant confusion and inability to understand humans cruelty toward one another hit like a ton of bricks.  An excellent reflection that is sure to give the reader a moment to ponder.

Overall, I loved the book!

I gave it:

4_5_StarRating

 

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