It took me a good three tries to first read this book, but once I finally got into it, I was pleasantly surprised.
I thought this would be set in ‘ancient mermaid’ times, but instead it is set present day where young fisherman David Baptiste comes across mermaid Aycayia, The Mermaid of Black Conch. I liked how Monique Roffey described Aycayia quite differently as to what one might originally think; for me, a long, slim mermaid with golden long flowing hair and beautiful skin in a gorgeous blue sea… how prejudiced and brainwashed do I sound?!
Instead Aycayia is an ancient, huge, heavy mermaid with spikes, red skin, matted hair and tattoos, yet captivating glimmering eyes.
It is quite literally a modern day fairytale as she is captured by fisherman, yet it is not quite so romantic or simple when she is yanked aboard the boat via a hook in her mouth (ouch) and is then hung out ‘to dry’ whilst they celebrate their catch in the pub.
But of course, her Prince Charming comes along – David, no less – who saves her and takes her back to his where he cares for her.
The telling of this story was quite unique, where it is told by the present David reflecting on his time with Aycayia – does she still exist? Did they part? Was she re-captured? Killed?
Parallel to this is David’s sister’s story, Arcadia, and her deaf son Reggie, who manages to communicate and bond with Aycaria. Arcadia teaches her the common tongue, where she later sees a familiar face return home… meanwhile David slowly but surely falls in love with his mermaid – even when she slowly turns back into a human.
It is also told from Aycayia’s perspective in broken English, with a hint of why she became a mermaid in the first place which is not to be envied; cursed and banished by the local women by trapping her legs together so as not to entice the local men.
Apart from her fishy friends and other banished woman, now a turtle, Aycayia is lonely.
Roffey continues to battle other themes within her novel, including love, jealousy and freedom, where the weather also punishes her: harsh winds and rains follow her in a bid for her to return to her banished land, whilst David’s bitter ex Priscilla also plans to do the same to the mermaid…
I enjoyed this normal, where I found it had a perfect balance of highs and lows, providing me with a new experience to a different type of writing and ways of imagining of a modern-day love story-fairy-tale.
Rating – 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Genre – romance, fiction, fairy tale, historical