A modern-day expansion of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, this unforgettable debut novel weaves a spellbinding tale of magic and the power of love as a descendant of the original mermaid fights the terrible price of saving herself from a curse that has affected generations of women in her family.
Kathleen has always been dramatic. She suffers from the bizarre malady of experiencing stabbing pain in her feet. On her sixteenth birthday, she woke screaming from the sensation that her tongue had been cut out. No doctor can find a medical explanation for her pain, and even the most powerful drugs have proven useless. Only the touch of seawater can ease her pain, and just temporarily at that.
Now Kathleen is a twenty-five-year-old opera student in Boston and shows immense promise as a soprano. Her girlfriend Harry, a mezzo in the same program, worries endlessly about Kathleen’s phantom pain and obsession with the sea. Kathleen’s mother and grandmother both committed suicide as young women, and Harry worries they suffered from the same symptoms. When Kathleen suffers yet another dangerous breakdown, Harry convinces Kathleen to visit her hometown in Ireland to learn more about her family history.
In Ireland, they discover that the mystery—and the tragedy—of Kathleen’s family history is far older and stranger than they could have imagined. Kathleen’s fate seems sealed, and the only way out is a terrible choice between a mermaid’s two sirens—the sea, and her lover. But both choices mean death…
Haunting and lyrical, The Mermaid’s Daughter asks—how far we will go for those we love? And can the transformative power of music overcome a magic that has prevailed for generations?
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 7, 2017)
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 7, 2017)
The Mermaid's Daughter is such a unique book that it is hard to explain and do it justice. As mentioned in the blurb, it is a modern update of the fairy tale, The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. It is as dark, actually probably even darker, than the fairy tale and set in the world of music and opera--giving it a different and interesting spin. The story is told by Kathleen, a young opera singer and student, her girlfriend Harry (Harriet) a fellow student in the music program, her father, Robin, a composer currently commissioned to turn The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne into an opera, and finally a chorus of witch-like voices who tell the dark stories of the generations of women in Kathleen's family. Kathleen suffers from pains in her feet and mouth and has been hospitalized multiple times for breakdowns with no medical explanation for her symptoms. Her family has a tragic history of the women committing suicide, usually in their early twenties, and Harry and Robin are determined that Kathleen not share their fate. This takes Kathleen and Harry to Ireland where they uncover the secrets behind the tragedies. In keeping with its operatic setting, the story is divided into three acts and the book includes an after story called The Mermaid at the Opera about Hans Christian Andersen and the origins of The Little Mermaid. Although I have enjoyed an opera or two, I wouldn't consider myself an opera lover, but this book had me wanting to listen to operas and fascinated about how they are composed and staged. I would definitely buy tickets to operas based on The Scarlet Letter or The Little Mermaid.
I did struggle a bit in the beginning to find my rhythm with this book--the magical aspects combined with the dark fairy tale feel and the changing perspectives of the narrators--but once I did, I had a hard time putting it down and the 430-ish pages seemed to fly by. Kathleen is an interesting character and you can't help but feel for her pain and her uncertainty about it. The love that Harry has for her is strong and true and when combined with Robin's fatherly love, the lengths they go through to save Kathleen from herself are admirable. The elements of the fantastical about the story are crafted well--it's a fairy tale that had me caught up in the magic while believing in its plausibility. The Mermaid's Daughter is beautiful, otherworldly, dark, and imaginative. It is intense, sad but still hopeful, and I have a feeling I will be thinking about it for some time to come.
Author Notes: Ann Claycomb’s fiction has been published in American Short Fiction, Zahir, Fiction Weekly, Brevity, Hot Metal Bridge, The Evansville Review, Title Goes Here, and other publications. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has an MFA in fiction from West Virginia University.
There were some food mentions in The Mermaids Daughter, including: champagne (Veuve Clicquot), coffee, granola and cereal, sea salt caramels, seafood, a hamburger, steak salad, clam chowder, salad, fish and chips, a breakfast of melon, grainy Irish sausage, and toast, soup and brown bread with butter and honey, a dinner of shrimp with rice and a salad, a mention of spicy scallops with orange peel, breaded zucchini and and coconut fried shrimp, sea scallops, Turkish coffee, linguine, pad Thai, and orange gelato with chocolate sauce.
For my book-inspired dish, I decided to go with Shrimp Salad from a meal Kathleen and Harry have on their last full day in Ireland. "The restaurant was as beautiful inside as out, all blond wood and sheer white curtains, no colors to distract from the food or the view. We ate celery root soup and shrimp salad on crusty white bread and drank a bottle of Riesling."
I decided to serve my shrimp salad as an open-faced sandwich on crusty baguette slices. I just did my own recipe, a take on a simple shrimp or lobster roll, with cooked shrimp, celery and green onions dressed with mayonnaise (in this case vegan mayo), lemon juice, Old Bay Seasoning, celery salt and black pepper. For some green color and texture, I added a layer of butter lettuce and thin slices of cucumber to my grilled baguette slice before piling on the shrimp salad. I served my sandwich with my favorite salt and pepper kettle chips.
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
1/2 lb cooked large shrimp, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large stalk celery, chopped
2 green onions--green parts only, finely chopped
2 Tbsp mayonnaise of choice (I used Just Mayo vegan mayonnaise)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 tsp celery salt
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
In a small bowl mix together all ingredients. Taste for seasoning adding freshly-ground black pepper and a pinch of sea salt if needed. Chill and serve on lettuce leaves or on bread as a sandwich.
For Sandwich: 2 thick slices French bread, grilled, green or butter lettuce leaves, thinly-sliced cucumbers.
Notes/Results: Super simple but really delicious. The slight sweetness of the shrimp is complimented by the tangy lemon and the slight kick of the Old Bay Seasoning and celery salt and the vegan mayo isn't too heavy, allowing the shrimp and crunchy celery to shine throw. I wanted an open-faced sandwich and piled the shrimp salad on a thick slice of baguette for the photos. Next time, I would probably cut the baguette slices in half to make it a bit easier to eat. But, even a tad messy, it was well worth it--especially when served with the salt and pepper kettle chips. I enjoyed the leftover shrimp salad the next day for lunch, served on top of lettuce. I would happily make this again.
I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
I am also sharing it with Novel Foods #29, an event celebrating food inspired by the written word and hosted by my friend Simona at Briciole. This deadline for this round of Novel Food ends Thursday, March 23rd.
Finally, I'm linking up this tasty sandwich to Souper Sundays, hosted here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup.
Note: A review copy of the "The Mermaid's Daughter" was provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins, and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.