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The Mermaid's Child

2.87  ·  Rating Details ·  433 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
Growing up motherless in an isolated community, Malin Reed has always been made to feel different from everybody else. The fact that, according to Malin's father, the absent mother was actually a mermaid only makes matters worse. When Malin's father dies, leaving behind nothing but his stories, Malin's choice at last becomes clear: stay, and never feel at home, or leave an ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 3rd 2005 by Arrow (first published 2004)
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Jan 05, 2015 Elyse rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Jo Baker's writing slices down in the core of your heart! Many of her phrases and sentences are so wrenching ....that in my imagination of imaginations --- I just didn't want to visualize the things I was reading at times.

I deeply appreciate the authors talents --I hope to read more by Jo Baker --but this story --kinda gave me the 'chilly-willies' ...creepy-yuckies. I'm not sure what I was expecting to read when I picked this novel ---but I didn't expect what I got.
"He hit me. A crack to the j
Rebecca Foster
This was Baker’s second novel, originally published in 2004. It doesn’t nearly live up to Longbourn, but it’s a fairly intriguing blend of historical fiction and fantasy. Malin’s father was a ferryman; her absent mother, so he swears, was a mermaid. After her father dies and she goes to work in the local pub, a peculiar man comes to town during a drought and seems to make it rain. Later it turns out he’s a swindler, but to start with he seems like a miracle worker, and Malin decides to make him ...more
Jan 21, 2015 Lindley rated it liked it
This book was quite different from what I expected, based on the description. When it's described as a fairy tale for adults, think more Grimm than Disney. Malin's journey is a hard one, full of both pain and pleasure, love and cruelty. Jo Baker does not shy away from the most difficult parts of the journey, and at times I found it a bit hard to read. Although many parts of this book are beautifully written, I had this feeling as though there was a wall between Malin and the reader--it was hard ...more
Katie Kipe
Sep 25, 2014 Katie Kipe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I began THE MERMAID’S CHILD, I was expecting more mythical legend than adventure. I was pleasantly surprised when Jo Baker’s ‘tale’ journeyed deeper into the voyage Malin embarks on in a desperate pursuit to find acceptance, rather than the typical, cliché mythology. The reader is pulled into dramatic climaxes that must be faced suddenly, with no warning; to such an extent that one begins to question how much longer Malin can endure these sometimes heartbreaking intervals. As Malin struggle ...more
Sharon Malcolm
A motherless child grows up unwanted and uneducated in an isolated village on an isolated island, believing her mother is a mermaid. Given away by her grandmother into virtual slavery, she escapes town with a wandering vagabond and embarks on an adventure - of sorts - to find her mother that takes her to some amazing places - not all of them geographical. Admittedly, it was sometimes hard to work out what was really happening in this fantastical piece of imaginative storytelling. However, the pa ...more
Alisha Marie
Oh, the disappointment! The synopsis of The Mermaid's Child sounded fantastic. Mermaids! Circuses! Mythical Inheritances! Intriguing, right? Well, unfortunately, all of that together was just a mish-mash of boring.

I love fantasy novels. Being transported to a mythical world is one of the great pleasures of reading. I had assumed that The Mermaid's Child would do this. But it didn't...not even a little bit. And that has a lot to do with the fact that I was never engaged in The Mermaid's Child. I
Mar 25, 2015 Cheryl rated it did not like it
This book should be such a fun read. The concept of the story makes you want to read it and instantly think it will take you on a magical journey ride. I had to make myself read this book to the tenth chapter. There was nothing exciting or charming about this book. Malin's grandparents are awful and put the whole family down. I had no desire to read further and find out if Malin finds her happy ending.
Sep 14, 2015 Laurie rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, and I'm surprised it isn't getting better ratings. It's the first book I read by Baker, and so perhaps it didn't live up to some of her others? I will check out more of her books myself because I think her writing is fantastic. I really cared about the main character and got sucked into her story. Baker paints a great picture with words. What's interesting about this book is that the main character is not really that bright or tough in the beginning, and hardly a hero ...more
Sep 04, 2015 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was thinking that I would give The Mermaid's Child three stars, but then I got goosebumps as I finished reading, and decided that the story affected me enough to earn four.

Malin Reed has a hard life, surrounded by death, enslaved, lost, alone. She makes some questionable decisions, but keeps surviving. She reinvents herself many times, passing as male when she needs to. I found her strength inspiring, but some will find the struggles hard to read.

Jo Baker is a great storyteller and kept me ent
Karen O'Brien-Hall
Feb 20, 2015 Karen O'Brien-Hall rated it did not like it
The second novel by Jo Baker I've attempted to read. Whilst some of the prose is beautiful, mostly it is pedestrian. I wondered if this was a device, differentiating time and character, but decided after reading nearly a third of the book, the story had not engaged me and I didn't care to read any further to find out. Sorry not my kind of book.
Megan Baxter
Feb 18, 2016 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it
I knew very little about this book before sitting down to read it, and had never delved into this author's works before. I was not at all sure what to expect. It didn't take long to get sucked in, although this was, by turns, a much darker book than I had been expecting. When all you know is that it's about a girl who thinks her mother might have been a mermaid, you're not expecting a 19th-century tale of sexual coercion and prostitution.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the
Sep 12, 2016 Alarie rated it liked it
I enjoyed much of this novel, but it didn’t live up to my expectations after liking Longbourn so well. It was a mishmash, first setting me up for the magical fantasy I expected. For example, Baker doesn’t give us a date or place name, adding to the timeless storybook feeling. Malin is growing up in a remote, down-on-its-luck village (Ireland?) and is shunned by almost everyone there, including her grandmother. When she asks her father to tell her about her missing mother, he says that she was a ...more
This book was definitely not what I expected, but it was intriguing nonetheless. From the book's description, I had thought I was getting some sort of whimsical fantasy, something like what Neil Gaiman might have written were he to set his mind on a mermaid story. What I got could not have been further from that.

Despite its slow and rather dry beginning, Baker's novel ended up being the gripping story of a young woman's unlikely efforts and continual reversals of fortune as she sets out on a qu
Zoe Brooks
Jul 12, 2015 Zoe Brooks rated it liked it
Shelves: magic-realism
This review first appeared on the Magic Realism Books blog -

The content and tone of this book came as a surprise. The cover and description in no way prepared me for the level of realism, and the physical violence and casual sex in the book. I was expecting a rather fantastical story, which might or might not be magic realism, something suited to teenage female readers. I don't usually look at other reviews of books before I review them, but in this case I
Jan 19, 2015 Joan rated it it was ok
A coming-of-age story of sorts, Malin is a girl of indeterminate age who opens this narrative with the sad statement that she doesn’t remember ever having a mother. But fantasy surrounds her mother, intriguing Malin from the moment her father reveals the reason for her absence. Her mother couldn’t stay, he told the child; she had to go back to her own people. She was a mermaid.

For unrevealed reasons [other than the stated fact of having no mother], Malin is an outcast in the town she calls home
Mar 26, 2016 Fictionaljuliet rated it liked it
Shelves: library, fantasy
First, I think this book is the victim of improper promotion, for the title and book blurb set up a certain expectation about the story, an exciting one at that (mermaids! adventures! mythical beings!), but the story is nothing at all about that. In fact, not even close. It's much darker and disturbing. Not in a bone chilling way, but more repulsive and bleak. To be honest, if the title and book blurb were more accurate, I probably would not have read the book.

So what IS inside, if not mermaids
Amie Gaudet

Author: Jo Baker

Type of Book: Audiobook - Unabridged - MP3 CD

Narrator: Nicola Barber

Length: 8 hours, 46 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Historical

Release Date: March 25, 2015

Publisher: Dreamscape Media

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

* I received a free MP3-CD copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review through AudiobookJukebox

From the very first few minutes of this audiobook I was enthralled. Narrator Nicola Barber has an amazing voice. She conveys a sense of wonder in every s
May 28, 2016 Jovdb rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was so well written that it was such a treat to become part of the story of Malin Reed.

As a child, Malin was brought up by her father and grandmother. Her mother, according to her father, was a mermaid, and had left them to return to her people.

Malin, as a child, was rebellious and aggressive. She was often in trouble, and, after her father died, her grandmother, unable to control Malin, sent Malin to live and work with her "uncle" at the local tavern.
Mar 18, 2016 Kathy rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Many thanks to Jim for getting me this book, probably for the sole reason that it has "mermaid" in the title and a great cover--but the gamble paid off because this was an enjoyable read. It's actually a sort of picaresque on the road tale that takes place in the 1700's as we follow the adventures of the title heroine, whose father tells her that her mother was a mermaid who had to go back to "her people." In reality, her mother probably worked in a traveling circus in a mermaid exhibit, or she ...more
Nov 19, 2015 Holly rated it really liked it
Shelves: san-francisco-br
Malin grew up not knowing her mother except through the tales her father and grandmother told her; her grandmother never had good things to say, but her father claimed Malin’s mother was a mermaid. After her father’s death, Malin ends up apprenticed to a cruel barkeeper. When she’s given the chance to escape the town where she will always feel out of place, Malin takes it. From there, she travels all over the world with a variety of characters, ultimately in search of the magical creatures she b ...more
Cindy Roesel
THE MERMAID'S CHILD by Jo Baker is a fairytale for grownups. It tells the story of a young girl, an outcast named Malin Reed. She grows up hearing tales that her absent mother is a mermaid. After her father dies, she's left alone with her grandmother who gives her away. Thus begins her life of labor and abuse.

She begins a grueling fantastical journey in search of her mother. Malin's travels take her across oceans, continents, high seas and deserts. She's sold into slavery, a circus, almost beate
Robbins Library
Jan 07, 2015 Robbins Library rated it liked it
Shelves: jenny-recommends
Jo Baker (Longbourn) doesn't shy from writing about hardship, and she doesn't cut her characters any breaks; yet this makes them all the more admirable. Malin Reed's father tells her her mother was a mermaid; her grandmother says her mother was a whore. When Malin's father dies, she loses what protection she ever had in the world, and survives a series of circumstances that often end in her nearly dying: she works in a bar, falls in with a con man, works on a slave ship, encounters a floating li ...more
Mar 18, 2015 Stephanie rated it liked it
Blurb from Publisher:

In this fantastical novel, the acclaimed author of Longbourn brings us the magical story of a young girl in search of her mother...who just might be a mermaid. Malin has always been different, and when her father dies, leaving her alone, her choice is clear: stay, and remain an outsider forever, or leave in search of the mythical inheritance she is certain awaits her. Apprenticed to a series of strange and wonderful characters, Malin embarks on a grueling journey that crosse
Jun 22, 2016 Ann rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. It hooked me from the very beginning. I will admit I listened to the book and the reader's lilting voice was a big plus.

As others have commented, this book is not what you first expect. The protagonist, Malin, is a child and, given the title and synopsis, you think its going to be fairy tale. Well, its definitely not; or at least not of the Disney variety. This book is not for children and it can be very disturbing and unsettling. The author purposely keeps you off-kilt
Kim McGee
Dec 23, 2014 Kim McGee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Malin has not had an easy life - first at the hands of family who don't want her after her father dies, then later at the hands of others who don't understand her. So she decides that she will run away and find her mother, a mermaid who left her to rejoin her people. In her travels she will meet many who would continue the abuse and some who will tend to her wounds, both emotional and physical. This historical fiction shows us that you can't always escape your past by running away to join the ci ...more
Oct 14, 2015 Julie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Adventerous Readers
Recommended to Julie by: Library
A very suspenseful and adventurous story of a young girl who grew up without a mother. It was just her grandmother and her father. The child was a poor child, but thankful for what she had. She wanted a better life and to find her mother that she believed was a mermaid. She travels far and wide on a long adventure to find her happiness and in the end it was simple when she figured it out. Parts of the story almost made me cry and definitely cringe on certain happenings of Malin. It is a book tha ...more
Jillian Fox
May 23, 2016 Jillian Fox rated it liked it
Baker's writing is intensely personal and character-driven. Having come from reading children's lit I was I was surprised at first by the lack of blatant fantasy, and the extent of the story's grittiness--there is little glossing here over the savage and the seedy--but in the end these two "lacks" proved virtues. Malin's repeated abuses draw the reader to her side, eager to see her overcome those who use her, and find that sense of belonging for which she seeks. And, while I do love a good liter ...more
T.M. B.A. Corbett
Apr 06, 2015 T.M. B.A. Corbett rated it it was ok
This book was a difficult read for me. It is a fairy tale but a very sad one. I love fairy tales because I need to escape reality at times, but I did not want to stay in Malins' World. This book was full of abuse and sadness. I wish it was a little more uplifting when the search for Malins' mother starts but it stays sad. I found that the story was well told and the world was built nicely. The author can write, bu the tone of the book never picks up it stays sad. I also wish there was more to th ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Suzanne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I kept expecting this book to begin or become whatever it was meant to be. I thought that it would involve some measure of fantasy or fable that would provide the reader with a transformative experience. Instead this is a really dark book that begins with a grim outlook and continues in the same unyielding vein. The protagonist goes on a journey, from and to where we don't really know. When we don't really know either. She learns to read and write while on this journey but mostly she is tortured ...more
Taylor Caitlin
Jan 02, 2015 Taylor Caitlin rated it liked it
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Basically, The Mermaid's Child is the story of Malin Reed, a poor and barely educated girl who embarks on a journey to find her mother, a supposed mermaid. The beautiful prose kept me turning the pages and the hope that the mermaid storyline would finally unfold. Not to spoil the ending, but I was disappointed in this regard and I think other fantasy readers will also be left dissatisfied. Readers who like dark
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Jo Baker is the author of six novels, most recently Longbourn and A Country Road, A Tree. She has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies. She lives in Lancaster, England, with her husband, the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, and their two children.
More about Jo Baker...

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