The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (272 pages/Vintage) is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. There’s something hauntingly beautiful yet disturbing about this gritty fairytale…
“Near the island of Black Conch, 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.”
This book doesn’t fall perfectly into the category of fantasy, ‘magical realism’ is probably more appropriate. Set in the Caribbean in 1976, Roffey uses the tragic curse of a mythical creature as a vessel to explore colourism, sexuality and womanhood. The book also addresses isolation and the destructive tendencies of female jealousy.
It contains a handful of disturbing scenes and crass language used to objectify the FMC. It was upsetting and shocking, and I’m still not sure all of which was completely necessary.
I thought the writing style would be difficult to read due to the Caribbean vernacular but it serves to make the book even more immersive and human. The Mermaid of Black Conch transported me to somewhere completely out of my comfort zone. I loved the way Roffey described the lure of the sea and how vividly she painted the picture of Aycayia’s transformation. This was a truly captivating and evocative read.
The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey is available HERE.0