The Mermaid of Black Conch
Near the island of Black Conch, an imaginary Caribbean island in the late 1900s, a fisherman sings to himself while waiting for a catch. But David attracts a sea-dweller that he never expected – Aycayia, an innocent young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid.
When American tourists capture Aycayia, David rescues her and vows to win her trust. Slowly, painfully, she transforms into a woman again. Yet as their love grows, they discover that the world around them is changing – and they cannot escape the curse forever…
The Mermaid of Black Conch is a masterful book that fuses the mythical (mermaids, otherworldly auras, whispered retelling of Taino legends) and the mundane (the oppressive routine of hard labour, relationship complications and lost love.) Throughout, there is a striking social commentary about colonialism and female sexuality. The history of slavery is never far beneath the idyllic landscape as Aycayia can’t quite escape the extent to which her life is the culmination of white colonialist privilege.
The mermaid is a real character in the myth we’re all living. A 400-year story where we think we can own or control one another, where power is currency. Yet Roffey treats these issues subtly. From Caribbean cadences and Aycacia’s hypnotic free-verse narrative to sign language and singing, this is a beautifully lyrical story. Language plays a key aspect in this book and is one of the contested issues throughout, particularly when contrasted against the harsh accent of the American tourists.
Overall, The Mermaid of Black Conch is a wonderful weaving of cultures, histories, and stories and nothing like I have ever read.
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