Recent Reads: The Mermaid of Black Conch

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey.

Roffey offers an intriguing and moving mix of fable and razor-sharp narrative set around the story of Aycayia, a cursed mermaid who is sung to the surface near a tiny Caribbean island by an unsuspecting fisherman, and promptly caught.  

Roffey’s prose throws out any preconceptions we may have about mermaids, and instead presents us with a traveler from another time, one who experiences the world in a shamanic way and has lived for thousands of years in the ocean; all of which is beautifully constructed in Aycayias’s poetic interludes during the novel.

At the heart of the book are two love stories, the mermaid and the sailor, and the land owner and her lover; both relationships seemed doomed to fail but Roffey avoids stereotypes or judgment and instead writes original characters who stumble painfully through the complications of land ownership after slavery and class division on the island.

Brilliantly memorable, The Mermaid of Black Conch weaves a compelling love story around the bigger issues of our relationship with nature and women’s precarious position in the world; ‘Womanhood was a dangerous business if you didn’t get it right.’