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The Mermaid's Child

2.92  ·  Rating details ·  652 ratings  ·  124 reviews
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. Appr ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 17th 2015 by Vintage (first published 2004)
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2.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  652 ratings  ·  124 reviews

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Elyse Walters
Dec 29, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Megan Baxter
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ann (Inky)
The weather went from 80 to 50 in a day or so, which means I'm having a painful week, but I finished this beauty finally!!!

High four stars from me, and I will timely devour the rest of what Jo Baker has written so far. Her writing is lyrical and just beautiful. Great read for summer.

More thoughts later, whenever I get caught up with reviews again, heh.
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
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
Jan 04, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alisha Marie
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
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 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
An odd book, but strangely compelling. The library had marked this volume as fantasy, wrongly in my opinion, but there was something magical about the whole thing despite the wanton cruelty and mainly, though not always, coerced sex. Our heroine, Malin, somehow seems able to remain almost untouched through disaster on disaster, but all the way through there are glimpses of love.
Not my kind of book, but I couldn't put it down.
Orange Cat
May 20, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The blurb about this kids you into thinking its a happy fantasy novel. Don't be fooled like I was. It's unremittingly miserable abusive and gruesome. She doesn't go to work in the pub as stated in another review she is sold into slavery to the publican by her grandmother who hates and abuses her and starves her like everyone else in her childhood.
Then she runs away with a man who she supposes to be magical but who is a conman traveling from town to town, who uses her sexually and when his luck i
Karen O'Brien-Hall
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.
James Bowick
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Brilliantly developed characters, and a rich command of language. I especially love Jo Baker's descriptives, at once odd and unskilled, to fit the voice of the character, and at the same time brilliantly descriptive. Moonlight spills down stairs like spilled milk. She talks about the "keyhole silhouette" of a caravan far down the road. The main character moves from adventure to adventure, reinventing herself and growing every step of the way, in the end a woman very d ...more
Baker tells the story of Malin Reed, a young woman searching for her mother, whom her father claims was a mermaid. This knowledge propels Malin on an odyssey that will ultimately lead her halfway across the world. After her father's death, Malin's grandmother sends her to work in a local public house; there Malin meets a charming con man and runs away with him. They part ways after a betrayal, and she disguises herself as a boy in order to get a position on a slaving ship. Malin takes to the sea ...more
An emotionally scarring piece of magical realism. Malin embarks on a journey of self-discovery and encounters both the best and worst in humanity.

I was not expecting the total rollercoaster Baker threw her readers, so I was thus unprepared for first 2/3 of the short novel. This is, of course, primarily my own fault as I failed to note the library's cover warnings. Nevertheless, I did appreciate the text for what it was--not the fairytale adventure I was expecting, but a depiction of the jarring
Set in an unspecified historical past in a world not entirely like ours (which is why I couldn't workout where & when it was set - should have read the back cover blurb more thoroughly!) Malin escapes from the small village where she has always lived by tagging along with a stranger, leading to her signing up as crew on a slave ship (where no-one apparently noticed she was a girl), being castaway at sea, lost in the desert & to joining the circus...Malin certainly leads an eventful life! ...more
Feb 06, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-ebook
I checked out the ebook from my local library's fantasy section. Despite the minor presence of mermaids, briefly, twice in the book, this is not really a fantasy book. It easily could have been, somewhere around halfway through when she finds her destination in the ocean.... but no.

This book should come with trigger warnings for sexual exploitation bordering on rape. repeatedly.

I also found the end unsatisfying. My final thoughts were something along the lines of 'this is some serious patriarc
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I'll be honest, I was not expecting this book to be so captivating.
The story itself is that of endurance, the belief and strength one possesses and testing it to the utter limit.
This writing style and way of storytelling I found to be a lovely breath of fresh air and in the future look forward to reading other works by this author.
If we could rate with halves I would give this book a 3.5 without a second thought but am left to give it a rate of 3.
Marianne Mullen
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had I known what I was getting into with this book, I wouldn't have read it. The story is so dark for this character yet I was compelled to keep reading it. I found myself thinking, "what now" when reading about the next experience Malin had and how unrealistic it was that she kept having these experiences...and yet...I still found the series of events to work in this story. It wasn't a fun summer read as I had hoped but one that gave me pause and unexpected trains of thought.
This was weirder than I expected. In many ways it’s a lot like the YA fantasy books I read but somehow it felt like an adult book. There was one section that I thought might be in the wrong place. I listened to a downloadable audiobook and there are sometimes problems. I can’t decide if it’s a 3 or 4 star book. Narrator was very good.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Too much time is spent on poetic descriptions. This is great in moderation, but I found myself skipping entire paragraphs just to get to the next line of dialogue or action. The book does keep your interest to the end, but I found it to be quite depressing. And the ending was horrible! Kind of a disappointment.
Donna Lion Grant
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this fairy tale, but was a little disappointed. I was not convinced of the transitions of one situation to another and was not as swept away by it as I wanted to be. I enjoyed the inventiveness of ways to survive eating local plants.
Joan Horkey
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a little hard to believe that so many bad things could happen to one person.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Strange and somewhat violent. Not one of my favorites.
Unique and beautiful, as well as heartbreakingly real, despite its fantastic aspects.
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dark, intriging 19th Century story of a young woman who experiences the realities of a harsh world. I enjoyed this author's writing and the storyline was unusual and compelling.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
I'm so mad that I wasted time reading this book. It had potential, but missed opportunities to be good.
Marci Zed
A great trip for the senses but the story sort of just circles around to a lackluster ending. An easy read.
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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.