Is there any better feeling in the world than when you go to a bookshop with someone, and just when you’re about to pay, they put their card in the machine? I mean, that’s my favourite fantasy world right there. My very lovely friend Emily did this for me earlier this week as a birthday treat, and it meant I ended up with one of my most anticipated reads in my hands a whole lot earlier than I’d hoped!
Book: The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill
Read before: No
Ownership: Birthday present!
Okay, so first things first, look at that amazing cover. It’s just gorgeous. There’s so much detail, and foiling, and prettiness. I’m super glad I got the hardback because inside the dust jacket it’s beautiful too, with foiled silver scales on a dark blue background.
The writing is compelling, and combined with the relatively short length, meant that this was a super quick read for me. This is no bad thing, though, and I can see myself rereading this many times. The bones of the story are taken from The Little Mermaid, but specifically the Hans Christian Andersen original, and the author never shies away from the darkness in the original story. You won’t find any singing fish or happy endings here. I particularly loved the expansion on the “every step will cause pain” element of the mermaid’s deal – this was graphically, but not gorily, explored, and gave you a real sense of Gaia’s sacrifice.
Without spoilers for that awesome ending, all I can say is that I loved the way that the author kept Gaia’s story on track with Andersen’s original, and then absolutely turned everything around. “Mermaids against the patriarchy” sounds very similar to The Seafarer’s Kiss, which I reviewed yesterday, but I am living for the feminist mermaid revolution. To get a little spoilery, the most unique thing for me was that Oliver, the Prince Eric of this version, was a totally useless ‘nice guy’, of the sort we’ve all encountered. I loved watching Gaia work out that fairy tale romance is kind of rubbish in real life.
This little mermaid is a modern woman that is easy to identify with, and her story is perfect for the current feminist climate. It isn’t as revolutionary as it’s being touted to be, especially if you are a regular reader of YA retellings (which tend to put a feminist spin on things), but it’s very well done. If you like your fairy tales to pull no punches, with realistic, flawed characters, you really ought to give The Surface Breaks a go.
4 out of 5 cats!