Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Release Date: June 19, 2018
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction
From the author of Lost Boy comes a beautiful historical fairy tale about a mermaid who leaves the sea, only to become the star attraction of history’s greatest showman.
Once there was a mermaid called Amelia who could never be content in the sea, a mermaid who longed to know all the world and all its wonders, and so she came to live on land.
Once there was a man called P. T. Barnum, a man who longed to make his fortune by selling the wondrous and miraculous, and there is nothing more miraculous than a real mermaid.
Amelia agrees to play the mermaid for Barnum and walk among men in their world, believing she can leave anytime 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.
Story Locale: Maine and New York in the 1800s
Christina Henry's The Mermaid is a historical fairy tale with a slight bit of darkness and a twist. It is the author's follow up to such stories as Lost Boy, Alice, and Red Queen. The story is a standalone novel set in 19th century America (1842). The story centers on the creature known as the Feejee Mermaid that was apparently a real humbug perpetrated by none other than P.T. Barnum who went on to found Barnum and Bailey Circus. Henry's version of the story is about a woman named Amelia Douglas who learns to live in a world completely different than her own, with both good and bad sides.
From meeting a fisherman named Jack who caught her and let her escape and later became her husband, to the young lawyer, Levi Lyman, who travels to Northern Maine at the behest of one P.T Barnum to find the woman who rumors claim is a mermaid, to Amelia's time with P.T. Barnum, his wife Charity, and three children, as his main attraction known as the FeeJee Mermaid. Amelia is a very curious character. She always longed to discover other parts of the ocean. She never seemed happy to be among her family.
When she met Jack, he allowed her to escape his net, and didn't tie her down or demand that she stay on land and become human. Amelia could fee Jack's longing and his sadness and found a way to become human for him. She had the freedom to return to the ocean without worrying about leaving Jack forever. Amelia and Jack's story really is a love story as well as the look into the frailty of what it means to be a human and not be immortal like a mermaid, which is what Amelia is. After 10 years of being alone, Levi arrives on her doorstep asking her to come to NYC where P.T Barnum's American Museum is located.
She had no intention of joining him. But, she has a restless soul and changes her mind. Amelia is all about having an adventure after being land bound for decades. She would love to travel the globe and see different places. The story actually alternates between Amelia, Levi, and P.T. P.T. sees Amelia as his ticket to a better life for himself and his family, especially since his previous humbug blew up in his face. As Amelia joins P.T., she realizes that this isn't the way she thought she would see the world. She didn't expect to be leered at, condemned, or treated as some sort of curiosity. She didn't expect to open her heart again after being with Jack for such a long time.
I loved that Amelia is written as a woman with a mind of her own who is not willing to just go along with the so called normality that is the human world, including how women are supposed to dress, and act. Amelia is definitely a challenge for all characters in this book, but most especially P.T. Barnum who never thought he would be outmatched by a spunky mermaid with drive, and determination. Henry also doesn't do the whole Little Mermaid makeover and have Amelia be half mermaid, and half human. Nope, she is all mermaid from her skin, to her teeth, to her long black hair, and black eyes.
You, as the reader, need to really put history in perspective as you read this story. Levi is a factual character. He really did exist, as well as his alias Dr. Griffin who supposedly found the FeeJee Mermaid. Of course, P.T. Barnum is also a historical figure, but the author has stated that she took freedoms with his character since there have been so many author biographies, and even movies depicting his life, and that of his families. I have to say that I came to really love Charity Barnum, as well as her daughter Caroline. They both become Amelia's strongest supporters and friends.
One could say that the author also puts forward a message as to how we, as humans, treat those who are different. Different skin color, different religions, different backgrounds, etc. She even travels to the deep south where life is not so wonderful for the slaves who are still not freed, and won't be for many years to come. Remember, this story is pre-Civil War era. Things have come a very long way since then but we can't never forget are past.