The Mermaid is a fascinating tale, about pushing your limits and always being true to yourself. After a chance encounter, a fisherman who accidentally caught a mermaid, decides to release her immediately. Due to his kindness, the mermaid becomes intrigued by the man and the land he lives on. As the mermaid has never been afraid of anything she tests out an old myth, to see if she can walk on land and return to the sea when she wants to.
This could have been where the story ends, but as all mortals do, the fisherman ages, but Amelia (the mermaid) doesn’t. The story changes as it brings in a character who has always been larger than life, that of P. T. Barnum. Barnum, after his last show was exposed as being fraudulent, is now looking for the next spectacular event to keep his museum open. Barnum receives the Fiji Mermaid, but is disappointed by it. He then hears stories about a real mermaid, and he decides that this is what he wants for his new exhibit. In the end he may just get more than he bargained for.
This version of Barnum is monstrous, his lack of caring for those who surround him is beyond belief. In the last couple of years Barnum has made a number of appearances in popular culture and his name is back in the mainstream. I think this iteration is an interesting one, as this version is quite established in his life, but is so driven by his need to increase his fame and fortune, that there is little compassion in him. During the later chapters, my heart was pounding in frustration, due to the way he tried to manipulate those around him.
The Mermaid, is also about the savagery of human nature, and how people react to the unknown. There are moments of real terror and fear for Amelia, as she can see what people expect of her, but is also strong enough to only give what she wants. There is also a lot of sadness to be found at the small-mindedness of humanity. How, when a world is shown something miraculous it can’t believe in it. There is also the predictability of some people, who see it as their religious duty to take matters into their own hands.
This is a great story full of friendship, hopefulness and joy, set against a backdrop of fanaticism and greed. Henry has fully brought to life a time where ownership and property weren’t just for your home and furniture but the people who were your family either through blood, marriage, or worked for you. I really enjoyed the sense of menace that could be felt throughout the story, it really helped you feel for the character of Amelia and those that she associates with, but the story in its own way is also reflective on our own times.
Review by Michelle Herbert
8/10 from 1 reviews
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