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The Mermaid
Cover of The Mermaid
The Mermaid
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From the author of Lost Boy comes a beautiful historical fairy tale about a mermaid who leaves the sea, only to become the star attraction of history's greatest showman.
Once there was a mermaid called Amelia who could never be content in the sea, a mermaid who longed to know all the world and all its wonders, and so she came to live on land.
Once there was a man called P. T. Barnum, a man who longed to make his fortune by selling the wondrous and miraculous, and there is nothing more miraculous than a real mermaid.
Amelia agrees to play the mermaid for Barnum and walk among men in their world, believing she can leave anytime she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he's determined to hold on to his mermaid.
From the author of Lost Boy comes a beautiful historical fairy tale about a mermaid who leaves the sea, only to become the star attraction of history's greatest showman.
Once there was a mermaid called Amelia who could never be content in the sea, a mermaid who longed to know all the world and all its wonders, and so she came to live on land.
Once there was a man called P. T. Barnum, a man who longed to make his fortune by selling the wondrous and miraculous, and there is nothing more miraculous than a real mermaid.
Amelia agrees to play the mermaid for Barnum and walk among men in their world, believing she can leave anytime she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he's determined to hold on to his mermaid.
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  • From the book Chapter 1

    Once there was a fisherman, a lonely man who lived on a cold and rocky coast and was never able to convince any woman to come away and live in that forbidding place with him. He loved the sea more than any person and so was never able to take a wife, for women see what is in men's hearts more clearly than men would wish.

    But though he loved the freezing spray on his face and the sight of the rolling clouds on the horizon, he still wished for somebody to love. One evening after a long day, he pulled up his net and found a woman in it-something like a woman, anyway, with black hair and eyes as grey as a stormy sea and a gleaming fish's tail.

    He was sorry that she was caught and told her so, though the storm in her eyes rolled into his heart. She stopped her thrashing and crashing at his voice, though she did not understand his words. The fisherman loosed her, and she dove back into the water the way a wild thing returns to a wild place, and he watched her go.

    But her eyes had seen inside him the way that women's eyes do, and his loneliness snaked into her, and she was sorry for it, for that loneliness caught her more surely than the net.

    She swam away from his boat as fast as she could, and she felt his loneliness trailing between them like a cord. She did not want his feelings to bind her, to pull her back to him, so her tail flashed silver in the water and her eyes looked straight before her and never behind.

    But though she didn't look back, she felt him watching, and she remembered the shape of his boat and the rocky curve of the land not too far off and the lines around his eyes, eyes that were as dark as the deep sea under the moon. She remembered, and so she returned again to watch him.

    She was called a name that meant, in her own tongue, Breaking the Surface of the Sea. When she was born, she'd come in a great hurry, much sooner than all of her six older sisters and brothers. The attendant who'd aided her mother had been astonished when she tried to swim away before the cord that bound her to her mother was cut.

    Her mother and father and siblings spent most of her childhood trying to find her, for she was never where she ought to be. She was warned repeatedly of the dangers of the surface and of the men who cast nets there, and of their cruelty to the denizens of the ocean.

    They should never have told her, for in the telling she wanted to know more, and wanting to know more led her farther and farther afield.

    Her home was deep in the ocean, far away from the land that pushed up against the water on either side, and this was because her people feared the men with their hooks and their nets and the boats that floated on the surface of the waves as if by magic. The storytellers told of silver fins caught by cruel metal and dragged to the decks of ships, where blood ran red and spilled back into the water, calling things that swam the ocean in search of dying creatures.

    Sometimes there was a storm, and that storm would batter a ship to pieces and the men would fall into the water and sink, sink, sink to the bottom-the lucky ones, that is. The unlucky ones were devoured by roaming hunters with their silver-grey bodies and black eyes and white, white teeth.

    When the ships were sunk, the mermaid would go to the wreckage and explore, and pick up odd things that humans used, and wonder about them. And then one of her brothers or her parents would find her, and she would be chided for her foolishness and dragged home by her wrist, staring with longing over her shoulder all the while.

    One day she was swimming near the surface-far too near the surface, her family would have said-and...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 28, 2018
    Henry (the Chronicles of Alice duology) introduces a twist into the history of P.T. Barnum’s famous Fiji Mermaid hoax by making the mermaid real. Amelia came from the water because of love; now widowed, she wants to see the world and needs money for travel, which she can get from being an exhibition. Barnum’s friend and employee Levi Lyman wants to protect Amelia from Barnum, who will do a great deal for a buck. The shadow of Joice Heth, the old enslaved woman whom the pair exhibited and exploited until her death, lies heavily on Lyman, who is trying to make up for his previous mistakes. Unfortunately, this promising premise flails under the weight of leaden prose, little suspense in the plot, and an obviously well-researched background that nevertheless feels lifeless and flat. Readers are told, not shown, about the issues Amelia has in confronting human patriarchy and racism, so her eventual partial victory over those forces has little emotional weight. This well-meaning story sinks like a stone. Agent: Lucienne Diver, Knight Agency.

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The Mermaid
Christina Henry
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