Mermaid: A Twist On A Classic Tale, by Carolyn Turgeon – Book Review

Lenia is a mermaid princess blessed with family, a beautiful voice, and a glorious home in the sea. On her eighteenth birthday she is allowed one overnight visit to the world above before she returns home to live out the rest of her 300 years. By chance on her day out, she comes across a shipwreck in progress and saves the life of a handsome man whom she delivers to Margarethe, a young woman taking refuge in a seaside monastery. Though none of them know it at the time, each of their destinies will be intertwined as a result of their meeting.

Carolyn Turgeon’s Mermaid: A Twist On The Classic Tale expands on Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairytale, The Little Mermaid, never straying too far from the dark roots of the original story and expanding upon the major elements of the famous fairytale. The chief addition to this romantic cautionary tale is the narrative of Lenia shares with Margarethe, who is almost a non-character in the original tale (so briefly does she appear). A chance misunderstanding between the two women renders them unequal rivals for the prince’s affections, loyalty and sense of responsibility.

Turgeon deftly makes the case for both women – their love for the handsome prince and the stakes involved in each winning his hand – though I must confess I was heavily biased in favor of the mermaid. Cognizant of the social issues and stakes of pre-modern kingdoms, Turgeon weaves the poverty that war mad monarchs bring to their subjects, and the need for pride of country and community against the needs of the individual – weighing personal and community responsibility against love.  Both women are clearly constrained by the gender roles and expectations of society and work to achieve their goals within their limited means. Mermaid is a dark and mysterious tale with no easy answers and plenty of food for thought not only for girls, but for the women who would give themselves away for too dear a price. Recommended.

Read More Reviews At: Devourer of Books

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 On My Shelves: New Book Releases – March 27 – April 2, 2011

Review Copy.

Unlike Disney’s version, this anime version of The Little Mermaid closely follows the plot of the original tragic tale.

For more on Mermaid and The Little Mermaid, check out the What’s Old Is New Podcast episode on Fairy Tales where Jen and I chat with Carolyn Turgeon.

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Currently Reading: The Uncoupling/ The Lysistrata/ She-Wolves

Jen and I are reading The Uncoupling, by Meg Wolitzer in preparation for a chat with the author about her book and its themes on the What’s Old Is New Podcast. The Uncoupling tells the story of what happens in the sexual relationships of the couples of Stellar, New Jersey when a drama teacher new to the town and the high school decides to stage The Lysistrata with her drama group.

So far The Uncoupling has been an interesting read, with well-developed characters who are warm and recognizable if a little emotionally elusive. Wolitzer is known for exploring the dynamics of small towns, suburban couples, and the choices women with respect to their identities in the face of marriage and motherhood. I loved the pointed observations, wit and intelligence in the The Wife, but found her last offering, The Ten Year Nap to be largely unsatisfying.

I have heard from other readers that they don’t quite know what to make of The Uncoupling by the end of the novel, so I am curious to see how it progresses on from the 100 pages I have read. I have been surprised at the chosen approach given the storyline in The Lysistrata (which I am also reading in  preparation for the same podcast).

I have also been making my way through She-Wolves: The Women Who Loved England Before Elizabeth, by Helen Castor. I am enjoying the stories of the women before Elizabeth, and man am I always amazed by just how convoluted everything royal is.  The betrayals, marrying family, the battles between fathers and sons over the throne and money.  I find this is not a book that I can just read straight through.  I read a section and then come back to it after I have digested it a little.  The names and relationships take some application to understand but the stories are fascinating, and Castor has an engaging writing style – I haven’t found this to be dry, and any confusion that I have had has not been her fault.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Vacation Non Reading and Some Recent Acquisitions

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Vacation Non-Reading and Some Recent Acquisitions

I am slowly getting back into reading again. About three weeks ago I went down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a little fun in the sun. Apparently that fun in the sun didn’t include reading any books. Four of them had a round trip ticket from New York to Florida and escaped being opened once, which really surprised me. Not reading while I was there isn’t as surprising as not reading on the plane. I was really into crossword puzzles and solitaire on both flights. I was even able to resist buying a book at an airport bookstore. Someone feel my forehead.

Along for the ride were: Impatient With Desire, by Gabrielle Burton, Picking Bones From Ash: A Novel, by Marie Matsuko Mockett, Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane, and West of Here, by Jonathan Evison. I have since finished Picking Bones from Ash for the BOOK Club discussion that took place here yesterday.

While I was away, a number of books came to me.  Most of which  I am really looking forward to reading.

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BOOK CLUB – Picking Bones From Ash, by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Welcome to BOOK CLUB, a joint venture between me and Jen from Devourer of Books.  Today we are going to be chatting about Picking Bones From Ash, by Marie Mutsuki Mockett which was published this month by Graywolf Press.

Picking Bones From Ash tells the dual narratives of Satomi a gifted pianist struggling in pursuit of goals that are largely defined by her mother, and her daughter Rumi who grows up in circumstances which are not dissimilar with her father in California. Weaving elements of the supernatural with fascinating details of Japanese culture, Buddhism, and the cultural differences between Japanese and Western culture, the novel gently explores the choices that defines the lives of these two women.

Before we get started, I would like to share the reviews of a few of the readers who will be participating in today’s discussion. Please feel free to leave your link in the comments section if I have missed it here.

Devourer of Books
That’s What She Read
Hey, I Want To Read That

If you plan on participating in today’s BOOK CLUB, please consider subscribing to comments at the bottom of the page.  I will be updating this post with new questions and ideas over the course of the day.


  • First off, what were your general impressions of the book?
  • Is this a book you would have read had you not been reading it for a book club?
  • Due to the unfolding of recent events Japan has been in thoughts of many, did you find that it influenced the way you read or experienced this novel?
  • What kinds of questions did you have during your reading? Were they answered?
  • A reading group discussion guide was included with the paperback version of this novel.  Which of the questions resonated with you and why?  Did they prompt you to think in different ways about the book?
  • What questions did you have for the group?

Marie Mutsuki Mockett – Blog Post About Family in Japan – Thanks Jen!

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear

12 review copies of Picking Bones From Ash were provided by Graywolf Press in order to facilitate this discussion.  Thank you so much!

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On My Shelves: New Book Releases – March 13 – March 26, 2011

On My Shelves

On My Wishlist

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Dark Mirror: A Novel, by M.J. Putney   Book Review

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April BOOK CLUB Giveaway – Galore, by Michael Crummey

Next week we will be discussing Picking Bones from Ash, by Marie Mockett (on Tuesday, March 22), but in the mean time our next BOOK CLUB selection, brought to us by Other Press, is Galore, by Michael Crummey.

Publisher’s Description:

When a whale beaches itself on the shore of the remote coastal town of Paradise Deep, the last thing any of the townspeople expect to find inside it is a man, silent and reeking of fish, but remarkably alive. The discovery of this mysterious person, soon christened Judah, sets the town scrambling for answers as its most prominent citizens weigh in on whether he is man or beast, blessing or curse, miracle or demon. Though Judah is a shocking addition, the town of Paradise Deep is already full of unusual characters. King-me Sellers, self-appointed patriarch, has it in for an inscrutable woman known only as Devine’s Widow, with whom he has a decades-old feud. Her granddaughter, Mary Tryphena, is just a child when Judah washes ashore, but finds herself tied to him all her life in ways she never expects. Galore is the story of the saga that develops between these families, full of bitterness and love, spanning two centuries.

With Paradise Deep, award-winning novelist Michael Crummey imagines a realm where the line between the everyday and the otherworldly is impossible to discern. Sprawling and intimate, stark and fantastical, Galore is a novel about the power of stories to shape and sustain us.

We will be discussing Galore on Tuesday, April 26th at Jen’s blog, Devourer of Books.  Enter to win a copy using the form below.


1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Dark Mirror: A Novel, by M.J. Putney   Book Review

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Dark Mirror: A Novel, by M.J. Putney – Book Review

Lady Victoria Mansfield, or Tory, as she prefers to be called, has been raised with the knowledge that magic and the mages who practice it are dangerous and beneath the nobility of which she is apart. When she wakes up one morning evidence of her magical abilities she is horrified and vows to keep it a secret from all those around her. A terrifying accident forces her to reveal her abilities, and her family feels they have no choice but to send her to Lackland Abbey, a mysterious school where the nobility send their children to be cured.

Usually blurbs give away much more of the book than I am comfortable with, but for this book they got it just right so that there were several unforeseen turns of event I was able to discover for myself.  One of these I took issue within initially, and wasn’t sure if the story would continue to hold my but Putney bridged the gap in such a way that put me right back on track. Putney wastes no time jumping into the story and the action, and manages to keep a nice pace throughout as the story unfolds, and the details of the magic, the time period and a budding romance made this a nice entry into this series.  The story is complete within itself, but more is welcome if not expected.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Wishlist: February 2011

Review Copy.

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