The Mermaid of Black Conch

By Monique Roffey,

Book cover of The Mermaid of Black Conch

Book description

Escape to the ocean with the entrancing, unforgettable winner of the Costa Book of the Year - as read on BBC Radio 4.

'Mesmerising' MAGGIE O'FARRELL
'A unique talent' BERNARDINE EVARISTO
'Wonderful' BRIDGET COLLINS
'Brilliant' CLARE CHAMBERS

Near the island of Black Conch, a fisherman sings to himself while waiting…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked The Mermaid of Black Conch as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The Mermaid of Black Conch takes a mythological creature and gives her extraordinary life, as a very real, young woman, called Aycayia.

She is caught – hooked like a prize fish - by greedy anglers, and hauled from the sea, bringing with her an already fascinating and tragic history of injustice and misunderstanding. But, she is also an object of love.

Not all fishermen are commercial opportunists… Not all men are eager to exploit beautiful and unusual women, and so begins an extraordinary rescue, and a life-affirming relationship, with many unpredictable, literally magical, and truly remarkable twists.

This enchanting book,…

This novel draws on the oral tradition and in this book – utterly unique – you feel the influence of this old legend.

You feel the otherness that myth gives to modern story.  It is strange, disturbing, and enticing. A good book if Goddesses of the sea, and how we women can change our skins, is something that interests you.

From Janis' list on evoking the sea and shore.

I saved The Mermaid of Black Conch to read until after I had finished writing my book and it was worth the wait. Monique Roffey’s novel tells of the romance between a fisherman on the fictional island of Black Conch and Aycayia, a magical sea-woman from the ancient Taino people, indigenous to the Caribbean. Aycayia is trapped and persecuted, David rescues her and witnesses her miraculous metamorphosis from piscine to human. Histories of colonial and ecological violence are woven in through the characters of the crass American tourists who wish to capture her, and Miss Arcadia Rain, the white Creole…

From Gita's list on myths beyond the Greco-Roman Canon.

"I am a story," Aycayia tells her young friend Reggie. She is a mermaid who loses her tail; a sea creature who is dragged to land after thousands of years in the ocean, and who falls in love with a fisherman. But she’s trapped in her own story, and the curse that swept her away from her own ancient people has to be unravelled and broken. Aycacia yearns for the sea, and yearns equally for the love of David, her fisherman. He saves her from near-suicide, but the curse of her story remains.

This story was recommended to me because…

An exotic location, a bit of magical realism (another favourite genre of mine), and a bittersweet love story of a very different kind. When the fisherman David rescues and falls in love with the centuries-old mermaid, Aycayia, she begins to return to her original, human form. But it seems their love is not enough to guarantee a regular style of happy ever after. I loved the exquisite writing, the heart-stopping moments of potential horror, and the lightening of what could have been a dark story by the injection of some farcical ‘baddies’. 

A fisherman visits a mermaid, who is not what fairy stories might have you expect. She is powerful, alien, beautiful and strange, and soon captured by a drunken group of loutish sailors, strung up as an oddity/ David knows she is more than simply a creature, that she is a being, a precious person deserving of respect, worth more than those who would treat her as a trophy. After he rescues her, the transformation begins, which is at once devastating, beautiful, and full of human truth. I couldn’t put this book down, and though I don’t often cry whilst reading,…

From Melanie's list on folklore of the sea.

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