The BookBrowse Review

Published June 22, 2022

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

The Mermaid of Black Conch
A Novel
by Monique Roffey
12 Jul 2022
240 pages
Publisher: Knopf
ISBN-13: 9780593534205
Genre: Literary Fiction
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This enchanting tale of a cursed mythical creature and the lonely fisherman who falls in love with her is "a daring, mesmerizing novel … single-handedly bringing magic realism up-to-date (Maggie O'Farrell, best-selling author of Hamnet).

In 1976, David is fishing off the island of Black Conch when he comes upon a creature he doesn't expect: a mermaid by the name of Aycayia. Once a beautiful young woman, she was cursed by jealous wives to live in this form for the rest of her days. But after the mermaid is caught by American tourists, David rescues and hides her away in his home, finding that, once out of the water, she begins to transform back into a woman.

Now David must work to win Aycayia's trust while she relearns what it is to be human, navigating not only her new body but also her relationship with others on the island—a difficult task after centuries of loneliness. As David and Aycayia grow to love each other, they juggle both the joys and the dangers of life on shore. But a lingering question remains: Will the former mermaid be able to escape her curse? Taking on many points of view, this mythical adventure tells the story of one woman's return to land, her healing, and her survival.

"A mournful tour through Caribbean history via one of its most indelible legends." - Kirkus Reviews

"[A] vivid phantasmagorical fairy tale...With a lilting patois and rollicking prose, Roffey evokes the Antillean settings, characters, and culture. This makes for an entrancing siren song." - Publishers Weekly

"Achingly evocative, the Black Conch mermaid's story and the people she meets after her return from the sea powerfully capture the nature of longing and belonging." - Booklist

"Full of lean, elegant, evocative prose that never overstays its welcome or drifts too far from its narrative, this finely honed novel about belonging, alienation and the enduring power of stories moves with the breathtaking rush of an ocean wave...Roffey's prose is a shape-shifting, living thing, moving through emotional highs and lows with an almost mercurial grace. Roffey achieves this flow state with astonishing economy, which enables her to linger on existential questions...A gripping dark fairy tale that any fan of contemporary fantasy will happily swim through." - BookPage

"What makes the novel sing is how Roffey fleshes out mythical goings-on with pin-sharp detail from the real world." - The Observer

"Not your standard mermaid. No comb and glass, no Lorelei hair. No catch and release." - Margaret Atwood, author of The Testaments, via Twitter

"[Monique Roffey] is the most adventurous of writers and The Mermaid of Black Conch does not disappoint...This is a strange, haunting, original and memorable novel about Aycayia, a mermaid from deep history who is entrapped and taken out of the sea...This is a novel packed with layers of meaning around womanhood, alienation, masculinity, toxic attitudes towards women, and inter-female rivalry, as well as love, compassion and the search for home." - Bernardine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other

"At last we have Monique Roffey to unhook woman from legend and bring tired myth into the realm of flesh and blood and sex. The Mermaid of Black Conch plunges fearlessly into the deeps of misogyny, colonial violence, friendship, jealousy, and erotic love in a reading experience as captivating as a tropical storm. Full-throated and mesmerizing." - C Pam Zhang, author of How Much of These Hills Is Gold

"The Mermaid of Black Conch is a beautiful book and a joy to read." - Nikita Gill

"Monique Roffey is a writer of verve, vibrancy and compassion, and her work is always a joy to read." - Sarah Hall

Monique Roffey is a writer, lecturer and activist and has been writing for over twenty years. In this time, she's published seven books (a memoir and six novels), some short fiction, many essays and some literary journalism. Some of her books have been awarded prizes, or been nominated for prizes, such as, the Costa Fiction Award, 2020, and the Costa Book of the Year, 2020, for The Mermaid of Black Conch; it was also short-listed for the Rathbones Folio Award, 2021, the Goldsmiths Prize, 2020 and the Republic of Consciousness Prize, 2021. In 2013, Archipelago won the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. The White Woman on the Green Bicycle was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, 2010. She teaches creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.

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