Doskoi_panda's Reviews > Lost Voices
by Sarah Porter (Goodreads Author)
by Sarah Porter (Goodreads Author)
I'll begin this by saying that I have had an interest in mermaids for as long as I can remember, probably stemming from Barrie's "Peter Pan" and strengthened by the references in T.S. Elliot's "Love Song for J. Alfred Prufrock." And then again, they appear in Greek mythology as the sirens, luring sailors to their watery graves with their enchanted, bewitching songs and let's not forget the fairytale of the Little Mermaid, and Disney's sanitized film version. Jack Dann produced an anthology of mermaid tales in the 1980s (Mermaids!) that had some tremendous stories. But rarely is the subject of origin addressed; mermaids seem to have simply existed. Some stories focus on their beauty, and their pain at being unable to join the human world, others demonize them in the way that does no credit to either side of the water's surface. But Sarah Porter's "Lost Voices" takes a slightly different tack - she tries to get inside their heads.[return][return]The story begins with Luce, who has been orphaned at the death of her father (he died before the novel begins, lost at sea as he worked on a fishing boat) and is now living with her uncle in a small seaside village. Luce is picked on for being different, and generally tries to minimize her presence. Her uncle, angry with his dead brother for 1) having stolen his girlfriend (Luce's mother), 2) for having "allowed" her to die due to his con artist's lifestyle and 3) for dying and saddling him with Luce, gets drunk and takes out his anger on Luce, molesting and nearly killing her. Luce decides that it's only a matter of time before it happens again, and that it would be likely to get worse as she grew older, decides to die, and plummets into the icy waters. Except she doesn't die, instead, she surrenders her humanity and becomes a mermaid.[return][return]Sarah Porter's mermaids have more in common with the sirens of Greek mythology, or the strangely cruel mermaids in Barrie's Peter Pan than Disney's Little Mermaid, Ariel. There is no kingdom under the sea, no comforting sea king to call papa. But there are other mermaids, other girls whose lives were so miserable from abuse, neglect or abandonment that they, too, rejected humanity. There are rules - mermaid laws and traditions made to protect the tribe- and there is work, of sorts, to use their voices to sing ships to the rocks and kill all the humans aboard by compelling them to jump into the icy depths. Luce is horrified by this aspect of what she has become and struggles against the compulsion to join in when her new friends attack ships. Luce's struggle to maintain something of her humanity/something of her own will and morality intensifies as more newly reborn mermaids join the tribe, and the tribe splinters into factions.[return][return]I really, really liked the book - it has a few problems, but most early novels have a few rough patches. The language is in that difficult middle ground that pops up in books for young adults, sometimes seeming too simple, and other times complex. The old lady in me has reservations about some of the subject matter being possibly too mature for younger readers, but at the same time the violence is considerably less than in the Harry Potter books. Another reviewer elsewhere seemed shocked or worried that the mermaids are not wearing bikini tops or shells or whatnot to hide their breasts, which I found to be an odd thing to point out as it's barely mentioned. There are passages that describe the mermaids as beautiful, but they don't focus on body parts particularly (except the faces), so I can't quite see that as an issue - If mermaids existed I am pretty sure they wouldn't bother with wearing shells. Honestly.[return][return]All in all, this was an excellent read, and I look forward to reading the rest of Luce's adventures in asserting her individuality. Despite the difficulties she is faced with; the cruelties of the fractured tribe, the knowledge that her gift of singing has murderous possibilities; Luce is a heroine learning to govern herself and discover her own strengths. [return][return]Copy supplied by NetGalley.
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