Thursday, April 20, 2017
The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb
The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb is a retelling of the original fairytale "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Andersen and, as such, is a bit dark. Kathleen lives with constant stabbing pain in her feet, like she's walking on glass. The pain is only soothed by immersing her feet in water and this same problem has been passed down for generations. No physical cause has been found and there's concern about her mental health, as Kathleen comes from a long line of women who have taken their lives after giving birth to a daughter.
Kathleen and her partner Harriet, aka "Harry", are studying to become opera singers. Kathleen's father is a composer. Her mother drowned herself by walking into the sea with rocks in her pockets when Kathleen was quite young.
When Kathleen and Harry spend a week vacationing in Florida, the sea begins to call out to Kathleen when she steps into it. Will she give in to the call of the sea and drown or try to stop the call by taking her life in some other way, like the women before her, or is there a way to break the spell? To find out Kathleen decides to travel to Ireland, the place of her birth.
My reading of The Mermaid's Daughter was one of those rare experiences in which I felt torn, partway through the book. It dragged for a time and I became weary of Kathleen's drama. She is, of course, in horrible pain so she has good reason to be a bit melodramatic. She's also an opera singer; drama is her life. At one point, I considered abandoning the book. But, I couldn't do it and I think that just goes to show you how compelling the book was, the fact that I continued even though I found the reading a bit slow. And, it was well worth sticking out. In the end, all the little strands of the story -- the opera, the father who is a composer, Ireland, the call of the mermaids -- come together brilliantly. I was a little stunned by how much I loved the book, after I'd considered giving up on it!
Highly recommended - Because the book is so dark and Kathleen's drama/Harry's patience can get on one's nerves, I can imagine even people not going through a slump might tire of The Mermaid's Daughter too soon. But, it is definitely worth sticking out. I loved how everything came together in the end with a touch of magic and the way, as you close the book, you realize, "Wow, all those things that I thought were filler . . . every bit counted." I was impressed. I also liked the way Kathleen's homosexuality was just a part of the characterization. In fact, it helps her relate to another character who is crucial to the plot, in the end, a further example of how every little bit counted. There are a few sex scenes and you know I'm not a fan of those, but they were not overly graphic so I just skimmed a bit. Also, I adore that cover and the further I read, the more I realized even the cover is absolutely fitting to the story.
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