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Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale (edition 2011)

by Carolyn Turgeon

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2052057,211 (3.61)7
Member:Allizabeth
Title:Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale
Authors:Carolyn Turgeon
Info:Broadway (2011), Edition: Original, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
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Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon

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This broke my heart, but was a very good, light read! ( )
  MargaretArmour | Dec 28, 2013 |
Originally posted at These Pretty Words.

I love me a good fairy tale. While I don’t consider myself an annoying girly-girl in that I need everything to be pink and frilly, I do concede the point that I’m a bit of a princess. I collect Cinderella memorabilia and find myself wandering into the Disney store under the guise of shopping for my niece (hint: she’s not even one. She doesn’t know who Cinderella is yet). Anywho, while I adore the Disneyfied versions of these tales, I’m far more intrigued by the original stories. Have you read the original versions? Grimm? Perrault? Andersen? They are morbid and sometimes scary, far from what most little girls today hear. When searching out material for my TBR list, I added a number of fairy-tale retellings. Mermaid is the second one I tackled and I’m happy to say, it’s the second one I’ve really enjoyed.

Mermaid, as you may have guessed, is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, the Hans Christian Andersen version, no Scuttle, Flounder or Sebastian in sight. When I picked this one up, the summary really caught my attention for one key reason: the story is told in alternating points of view, switching every chapter between the mermaid, Lenia, and the human princess, Margrethe, who finds the prince on the beach after Lenia saves him. If you know the tale, you’re aware that TLM is ultimately a bit of a tragedy, and Mermaid definitely sticks to the major plot points.

Lenia is a mermaid princess who is fascinated by the human world, more specifically, the “myth” that humans have souls, which allow them to “live” forever. Mermaids, on the other hand, have long lives but eventually turn to sea-foam and cease to exist altogether. She’s heard tales of when her kind mingled freely with the humans, but lives in a time when any interaction is strictly forbidden. Each mer-person is granted one day to visit the surface, though they must remain hidden. When Lenia’s day comes, she doesn’t waste a moment, swimming for the surface at midnight, despite the fact that there’s a raging storm. The young mermaid comes across a sinking ship and watches in fascination as sailors die all around her. Swimming through the wreckage, she finds one man who’s still alive and feels pulled to save him from the same fate of his crew.

Meanwhile, on land, we are introduced to Margrethe, a young princess who is being housed in disguise at a convent for her safety. Her father, the Northern King is convinced that the enemy Southern kingdom is gathering their forces, intending to attack. On the morning after the storm, Margrethe is out walking in the garden when she spots a mermaid, Lenia, carrying a man to shore. Lenia spots Margrethe and somehow calls to her to come and save the man.

The mysterious man turns out to be the prince of the Southern lands, Christopher, a fact Margrethe doesn’t find out until after a mild flirtation with the handsome stranger. When she discovers his identity, she flees, terrified that he will somehow find out who she is. Still, the young princess is drawn to the man a mermaid dropped into her lap, wondering why he was brought to her. When Christopher is well enough to travel, the two share a final (or so they think) goodbye with a very sweet kiss. By this point, I’m firmly on Team Margrethe.

Back under water, Lenia can’t stop thinking about the man she saved and visits the surface once more to see if she can find him again. Instead, she finds Margrethe. The two share a conversation, each clearly fascinated with the other, envious of the life the other woman leads.

Shortly after, Margrethe returns to her home land and Lenia strikes a bargain with the sea witch to allow her to become human. Here again, we see a very adult version of TLM because the trade-off for legs is having her tongue cut out and constant stabbing pain with every step she takes. Lenia bears her burden in hopes of gaining the prince’s love and his hand in marriage so that she may one day gain a soul of her very own.

Unaware of Lenia’s plan, Margrethe hatches one of her own. Convinced that the mermaid bringing the prince to her was a sign, she agrees to give herself in marriage to the Southern prince in exchange for peace between the two kingdoms. When she arrives in the Southern kingdom, she finds not only the Prince, but Lenia as well.

What really caught my interest about this telling is that you get two equal sides of the story. Neither of these women are the “wrong choice.” They both have their good and bad qualities but each loves the prince in their own way and neither holds a grudge against the woman competing for his hand. Typically I’m not a fan of love triangles. I like to choose a side and solidly support that choice. In this story, I wanted to choose a side, but the writing and the characters pushed me to consider both options equally.

If you’re a fairy tale lover like me, I’d highly recommend this book. It’s a quick read but packed with good stuff. While it’s not overly erotic, it is definitely an adult version of the familiar tale, woven in a beautiful way that will challenge your allegiance.

( )
  ThesePrettyWords | Sep 23, 2013 |
RATING: 1.5 stars (and the half star is because it's got mermaids!)

I LOVE Disney's "The Little Mermaid". It is my favourite movie ever. I still watch it today. Oh I know Grimm's original fairy tale is nothing like the movie. It's not upbeat and it doesn't have a happy ending. Still, I believe Disney's movie to be a good "retelling" of the fairy tale. "Mermaid" by Carolyn Turgeon had potential... but I think the author failed in living up to it and making this "modern retelling" really shine. I will say this in favour of the book, though: the writing was captivating enough to make me read until the end, even if the characters made me feel frustrated and annoyed.

The main problem with this book is the story: it's not properly developed. Every character in this book is shallow in terms of feelings and personality. The world-building is weak (even the mermaid world is only 'sketched' instead of vividly described). Basically this book has about 200 less pages than it needed to have.

In the beginning of the book it seemed to me that mermaids were different from humans. They don't seem to feel like humans or understand them very well; that is why they are forbidden to go to their world.
I thought it interesting that mermaids were so different; I even liked that Lenia, the mermaid protagonist felt unsatisfied with the situation of division between humans and merpeople.

But then, ten pages later she went and randomly fell in love with some human she'd never met before and never spoke to before either. She saved him and bam... she was in love. That would be unbelievable between humans! It felt really... fake, I guess. And then she sacrificed everything for that love.

Well, it might work for Grimm's fairy tale but it doesn't work for a full novel. It's just not convincing. When you read a story in 'novel format' you expect things to happen... more progressively.

And the princess? Well, she was one confused woman. Even though I thought she was better fleshed-out than the rest of the characters and that she was the only one who actually sacrificed anything for love (and not on a whim, like the mermaid does), she also falls for the Prince at first sight? What, is he that good-looking? Come on, instantaneous romance in an adult novel? I'd have liked it so much more if the author had taken the time to actually write about the characters and develop them properly. So what if it deviated even further from the source material? It's a rewriting is it not? Look at Disney's "The Little Mermaid"; that is what I call a "retelling" of a fairy tale.

As for the prince... the prince was an utter idiot. If a woman ever fell for his looks I'm sure his complete lack of personality and raging machismo would be a huge turn-off. And to think that a proud, powerful mermaid that apparently was free enough to choose her mate in the waters, would sink as low as to become his plaything... because that is exactly what happens. Again, it is irrelevant if the same happens in Grimm's story or not because as I said before, it's a retelling; the source material will be there, but it can be changed. Even if the author wanted to follow the original that is not an excuse for the appalling lack of character development.

The end was so... lame. It was unrealistic, if you think how much the mermaid loved the prince.

So, this giant rant to say that the book lacks proper character and story development. It's not as much a "retelling" in the true sense of the word (again, I mention the Disney movie) but I suspect little more than a "retelling" of the fairy tale in the author's words. Why go to the trouble of writing a book then? I don't know, but I was really disappointed with this. Shallow characters, plot full of holes. A mess. Stick to the original or just watch "The Little Mermaid" by Disney if you want a retelling with a "twist". ( )
  slayra | Sep 21, 2013 |
This broke my heart, but was a very good, light read! ( )
  margaret.armour | Jul 15, 2013 |
A good rendering of a classic tale. I particularly enjoyed the story as told from the Princess' point of view. In classic fairy tales we are often lead to believe that the prince can do no wrong. In this beautifully written version, both the mermaid and the princess are naive and flawed. Despite this, their actions seem brave and real. Good for readers who love the classics but long for a little bit more. ( )
  klarsenmd | Jul 2, 2013 |
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For my parents and sister.
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Scarcely had she entered the river than she was cleansed, / gleaming once more like a white stone in the rain, / and without a backward look, she swam once more, / swam toward nothingness, swam to her dying. -- Pablo Neruda
It was a gloomy, overcast day, like all days were, when the princess first saw them. The two of them, who would change her life.
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Book description
In Turgeon's surprisingly dark retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, two women pine for the affections of a prince: mermaid Lenia, who pulls Prince Christopher from the sea, and Margrethe, the princess of the rival kingdom, who witnesses the rescue from the convent where she hides from the war raging between their two kingdoms. Lenia, who falls instantly in love with the prince, sacrifices the sea, her voice, and her health to be with him on dry land. Meanwhile, Margrethe believes that marrying the prince would unite their kingdoms, but when she arrives to arrange it, she finds him already enraptured with Lenia. While he remains unaware that the girl he loves is also the mermaid who saved him, Margrethe recognizes her rival immediately and puts into motion a plan to send the ailing mermaid back to the sea and save her own ravaged kingdom. Turgeon has done a superb job of creating compelling characters and conflict from a story already familiar to readers.
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Princess Margrethe has been hidden away while her kingdom is at war. One gloomy, windswept morning, as she stands in a convent garden overlooking the icy sea, she witnesses a miracle: a glittering mermaid emerging from the waves, a nearly drowned man in her arms. By the time Margrethe reaches the shore, the mermaid has disappeared in to the sea. As Margrethe nurses the handsome stranger back to health, she learns that not only is he a prince, he is also the son of her father's greatest rival. Sure that the mermaid brought this man to her for a reason, Margrethe devises a plan to bring peace to her kingdom. Meanwhile, the mermaid princess Lenia longs to return to the human man she carried to safety. She is willing to trade her home, her voice, and even her health for legs and a chance to win his heart.--From back cover.… (more)

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