By Cynthia Ayala
“Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return. P. T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket. Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time 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.”—Goodreads
A wonderful retelling that captures Henry’s dark and somber tone as it retells a story readers know but in a completely different way, giving readers a new tale for readers while also presenting a new view of the character. Much like many of her other works, there is a dark tone here, but it is less dark than the previous novels as it ties into history to spin a new tale. However, Henry has not lost the seriousness in her storytelling, the dark humor that makes her such a talented writer and separates her work from others. It is what separates her style of writing from other and makes her retellings truly unique. Moreover, with the creation of Amelia is unlike anything readers have ever read with a Little Mermaid retelling.
Amelia has the curiosity for the world above, but once there, she is so different from any other retellings. She is a compelling character that has strong feministic characteristics, challenging how society views the women, and being herself, not allowing herself to conform to the ridiculous expectations. Amelia is impressive in that aspect, remaining stoic both in tone and appearance for most of the story, and yet, those moments of power, where Amelia outsmarts the men who would take advantage of her, makes her amazing. She is also instantly relatable. Amelia captures this idea of adventure and the loneliness that can accompany it, luring her to a place where she found a home and love. It is such a compelling way to tell the story and build this new retelling by tying the fantastical to a moment in history readers are familiar with. Moreover, her tone, her facial tics, and the sarcasm make her a pure delight. Henry has created this vivid new character, giving those few moments of brightness against her usually stoic tone make the scenes shine, and they make the storytelling shine.
Then there is the creation of P. T. Barnum. Where Amelia is this strong straight-faced woman, he is this manipulative little man. He is every bit a con-artist, a circus man who manipulates the reality to feed people falsehoods. Moreover, he is a greedy little man who wants to take advantage of everyone around him. They balance each other one another out perfectly, one incredibly likable while the other is detestable. He is such a slimy man, but not so much so that it makes him inhuman. He has been carefully structured to mirror what history knows of him and go deeper into that so that readers can understand him. His family life, his history may not be what readers are familiar with, but with that more profound insight, the reader can see what kind of man this was though all his actions, not just his business self.
However, it is interesting to see both points of views used to tell the story and set up the views of the period. Again, to see the way Amelia challenges societal constraints will make any reader happy because she is right whenever she thinks it does not make any sense. In that one sense, she is incredibly lovable. Moreover, it is the added realism that gives the story its freshness regarding this retelling. It has a place in history that allows the reader to suspend belief that this is just a tale. The structure of the tale, building history and relationships makes the story easier to follow, the dynamics more believable. There’s enough detail to ground the reader in the time and place of the story. Once again, it is easy to follow the story and a place in time that readers can understand.
It is an excellent retelling that is incredibly different from her previous works. It has a note of realism to make the story unique. Moreover, with characters like Amelia, who hold themselves against conformity, it is impossible to put down. Good characters are hard to turn away, and when coupled with unique storytelling, impossible to ignore. (★★★★☆ | A)
|Pub Date: June 19, 2018||Page count: 336pp||Age Range: 16 & Over|
|ISBN: 978-0-3995-8404-6||Publisher: Berkley||List Price: $16.00|
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|Kindle Store $11.99||Amazon|