As I have mentioned in my previous Want Books post, after learning that Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon was alleged to be made into a movie, I was immediately intrigued by this fairytale retelling of The Little Mermaid and ordered this book via Fully Booked’s special order. Finally, after months of waiting, the book arrived.
Here’s the book description from the publisher:
Princess Margrethe has been hidden away while her kingdom is at war. One gloomy, windswept morning as she stands in a convent garden overlooking the icy sea, she witnesses a miracle: a glittering mermaid emerging from the waves, a nearly drowned man in her arms. By the time Margrethe reaches the shore, the mermaid has disappeared into the sea. As Margrethe nurses the handsome stranger back to health, she learns that not only is he a prince, he is also the son of her father’s greatest rival. Sure that the mermaid brought this man to her for a reason, Margrethe devises a plan to bring peace to her kingdom.
Meanwhile, the mermaid princess Lenia longs to return to the human man she carried to safety. She is willing to trade her home, her voice, and even her health for legs and the chance to win his heart…
A surprising take on the classic tale, Mermaid is the story of two women with everything to lose. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, it will make you think twice about the fairytale you heard as a child, keeping you in suspense until the very last page.
Ah, mermaids… I have never outgrown the story of this beautiful mythical creature I keep hearing about since I was a child. I remembered being first introduced to mermaids through Walt Disney’s movie version of The Little Mermaid, which, I believe, most of us are already familiar with. And just as what the legends said about this creature having the ability to lure the sailors by her magical voice, I was also entranced by the singing voice of Ariel. Clearly, Walt Disney was able to depict what mermaids were capable of.
Both Walt Disney’s movie and Carolyn Turgeon’s book were adapted from the original story of Hans Christian Andersen. While Turgeon’s book remained truthful to most contents of Andersen’s work, Walt Disney, on the other hand, altered the story to make it a happy ending appropriate for its younger target market. Furthermore, unlike in the movie, mermaids and humans from Carolyn Turgeon’s version can independently interact with one another until humans began killing mermaids; thus, a decree was implemented which allowed mermaids to explore the human world for only a day when they turned eighteen years old.
Anyway, going back to the book, I generally enjoyed the mermaid retelling of Carolyn Turgeon. Each chapter was told from the alternating point of views of Princess Margrethe and Lenia. Not only will readers get to know Lenia, but they will also get a glimpse of Princess Margrethe’s life and feelings. I think this was what made the book unique in its own way – something that led the princess from the Northern Kingdom to play a significant role in Prince Christopher and Lenia’s life. Moreover, the sea witch was given a different characterization from the usual villain we usually represent from such a creature, letting readers sympathize with her and understand her deep emotions.
I liked Carolyn Turgeon’s writing style of this book. Readers will satisfyingly devour every bit of beautifully-written descriptions and be immersed in Lenia’s sea world which depicted a place full of richness and mysteries. The way Lenia was portrayed will make readers aspire to become mermaids as well. Her perfect and slender body, moon-colored hair, stunning voice, and shiny, sparkling tail which illustrated a woman wearing an exquisite dress truly justified the beauty of a mermaid.
Aside from the writing style, the concept of eternal life was also acknowledged in the book. Lenia’s desire to become a human being was not limited to her longing to explore the human world, but her wanting to have a human soul and live an eternal life after death. Quoting from the book, this was what Lenia learned from her grandmother:
“…that humans had souls, and that their souls lived forever. It was not the same as when merpeople died, dissolving into foam and becoming part of the great ocean. Souls were webs of light that contained the essence of a human’s life. Memories and loves, children and families. Every moment of a life, pressing in.” (p.11)
This yearning and desire pushed Lenia to be part of the human world which brought the prince to her by fate. And as we all know from the story, the mermaid immediately fell in love with the prince. It was an interesting relationship between the prince and Lenia because it proved to show that sometimes, words aren’t needed to express one’s feelings and emotions; that actions will always speak louder than words. In the end, learning what the mermaid sacrificed just to be with the prince, readers will ask themselves: How far or to what extent is one willing to sacrifice for the sake of love?
Lenia and Margrethe’s complex yet endearing relationship compelled them to make difficult decisions in life and in love. Their worlds were intertwined in the most unexpected ways, filling the story with surprising twists and outcomes. This novel is surely for those who are fans of fairytale retelling and who want to relive the mermaid-ness inside them. A worthwhile read, indeed.