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The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  211 ratings  ·  58 reviews
April 1976: St Constance, a tiny Caribbean village on the island of Black Conch, at the start of the rainy season. A fisherman sings to himself in his pirogue, waiting for a catch—but attracts a sea-dweller he doesn’t expect.

Aycayia, a beautiful young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid, has been swimming the Caribbean Sea for centuries. And she is entrance
Paperback, 188 pages
Published April 2nd 2020 by Peepal Tree Press Ltd
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Paul Fulcher
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, goldsmiths-2020
Now winner of the Costa Prize for Best Novel to go with the Goldsmiths Prize shortlisting

I want to stay my woman self
even here when my people long dead
I want to be here on land again
but deep inside I know there is still some mix up
I am still half and half
half woman and half cursed woman
cursed still in this new place
The sea is a strong pull

The Mermaid of the Black Conch comes from the Costa and Women’s Prize shortlisted Monique Roffey and the wonderful small independent publisher Peepal Tree Pres
Gumble's Yard
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Now winner of the 2020 Costa Novel prize as well as shortlisted for the 2020 Goldsmith Prize.

“Every afternoon, around three o’clock, David dropped Aycayia to Miss Rain’s for lessons. There at the table in the grand room with wooden floors, sat an indigenous woman of the Caribbean; cursed to be a mermaid by her own sisterhood, whose people had all but died out, slaughtered by the Castiilian Admiral and his kind; a woman who, as a mermaid, was pulled out of the sea by Yankee men who wanted to a
Oct 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2020

This book is an imaginative poetic fantasy built on the mythology and history of the Caribbean, that I rather enjoyed, but it is a book that I found difficult to review.

It tells the story of Aycayia, a woman from a pre-European Caribbean culture who has been cursed and forced to live as a near-immortal mermaid. These are the fantasy trappings that underpin the story, but the rest is very much set in the real world, mostly in 1976. Aycayia develops an int
Eric Anderson
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This may be a novel about a mermaid but it's definitely not a Disney tale. At the centre of this story is the destructive effects of female jealousy, the dizzying impact of heartfelt passion and the deleterious legacy of colonialism on a fictional Caribbean island. Monique Roffey is a writer whose work I enthusiastically follow because her books are so varied and creative. The three I've read previously “The White Woman on the Green Bicycle”, “House of Ashes” and “The Tryst” each use inventive s ...more
John Banks
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it

Shortlisted for 2020 Costa book awards.
Was also shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize

Roffey's The Mermaid of Black Conch is a special and deep book with a lot of heart.

A beautifully, subtly written tale of a woman, Aycayia, cursed to be a mermaid, captured in a fishing competition by white USA men then rescued by David Baptiste, a local fisherman who falls in love with her. The events mostly occur in 1976 around St Constance a village on the Caribbean island, Black Conch, in the lead up to t
“Me, a fisherman and she my lady friend; the sea was our matchmaker…”
A Love story like no other…

This is not your typical mermaid or love story and that is what made The Mermaid of Black Conch utterly unique. Set in 1976 we are introduced to a fictional Caribbean Island called Black Conch that is reminiscence of an island in the Lesser Antilles. The book opens with David Baptiste who is a fisherman from the small village of St. Constance, he takes his pirogue, which was the only value thing
Oct 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-goldsmiths, 2020
From a Wikipedia article about “Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean”: ”The legend of the mermaid is said to arise from the Ciboney account of seductive, sexually generous Aycayia, the incarnation of beauty and of sin who gave men pleasure but robbed them of will. She and her six lusty sisters were punished, and Aycayia was condemned to the care of an ancient crone Guanayoa, and sent to an isolated place called Punta Majagua. This exile did not improve the situation because she was constantly "vi ...more
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
enerally when I start to read a book, I need a couple of pages to fully sink into it. With The Mermaid of Black Conch, I was ensnared from the first sentence. As one can guess this will be a glowing review.

The book is primarily a flashback. In 1976 A fisherman, David Baptiste in the Caribbean island of Black Conch, spots a mermaid. The sighting changes his life in many ways. This part of the story is in the form of diary excerpts taking place during the years 2015/16.

During a fishing competition
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a novel with the power and force of a myth, and it's about a woman: an ancient woman brought into a modern world. Written from many perspectives, it's rich and textured with voices. From the first person, poetic and almost song-like voice of the mermaid, the colloquial of her fisherman lover, and the distanced third person that examines the many characters who interweave with them, this is not a cacophony but a seamless coming together. ...more
Darryl Suite
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is such a strange book (story, prose, and structure). I still need time to compose my thoughts. But I'll say this: it's hypnotic.

I have another book by the author + I'm almost tempted to start it right away.
Debbie Jacob
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh what a mermaid tale! The true marvel of this novel is how the author offers so many important social and historical points for readers to consider in a light read. Roffey’s many messages never get in the way of her story, which the narrator categorizes as a legend.

History becomes entwined with myth and legend, and still Roffey engages in genre-bending. Can the story of a mermaid be classified as a fable and not just a legend or folk tale? Aycayia provides lessons animals teach in fables, but
Nik Gorecki
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This really grabbed me from the off. Set on a small fictional Caribbean island, its a love story told with archetypal but well rounded characters and a sprinkling of magical realism, all for the ultimate purpose of exploring Caribbean history. It had a well told yarn feel about it. Very well realised world. Patois was used expertly. The love story aspects also sincere and moving even.

She's written a fair few books before this one, and there's something very accomplished about it without at all
Dec 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
To be honest, I would rarely go anywhere near a book subtitled 'A Love Story', as romance is not the genre for me but, throw in a Bernadine Evaristo recommendation, a Caribbean setting and an ancient, cursed mermaid and colour me intrigued.

This may be a novel about a mermaid and her love affair with a human but Disney it ain't. When Rasta fisherman, David rescues Aycayia, the titular mermaid from the hook of an obnoxious American tourist, he may be entranced by her strange beauty, but he also h
Sep 18, 2020 rated it liked it
This is more than a love story about a fisherman and a mermaid. It’s a story about loss: of the Caribbean’s indigenous people, women who loose their power, and men trying to prevent a loss of their identities; and it’s a story about the generational effects of colonialism and the hatred that is harbored by the oppressed. It’s also a story about women’s sexuality, how one character hides it, while another manipulates with it, and yet another is trying to understand it.

Synopsis: One day while fis
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
'How does a man accept a woman, any woman into his house?Just like that, let alone a mermaid. Life changed quick, boy, I never plan it so. Later I saw that change came as change always comes, from a chain of events with a long history, too long to see from back to front, till it come.'

This book weaves the fantastical into the believable while exposing the many kinds of motivations that come from the human heart. A story about how jealousy is a curse, how greed distorts a person from acknowledgin
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My second five star review in the last 30 days. Pretty unusual but well-deserved. The Mermaid of Black Conch portrays loneliness, beautifully-flawed relationships, longing, jealousy, and greed, wrapped in a captivating story with acute imagery and compelling characters. It leaves much for us to consider about the origin of our own humanity. Full review at
Dec 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Perhaps I did this book an injustice by listening to the audio. I think that maybe the beauty of the words escaped me. It was well performed though.
I did stop to write down this quote which resonated with me. I hope it’s not a spoiler but in case you’re worried, look away now!

“I was not sure if this was my dreams come true. I was lonely, I missed the sea. I missed my loneliness. I was trying to understand everything, heart mixed up.”
Elizabeth Smith
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m already a fan of Roffey’s work, but this is her best yet. A story of a mermaid, yet with all the practical stuff thrown in - this is magical realism at its best. An incredible, moving story and great escapism with incredible insights about what it is to be a woman and the inequalities which still exist. One of the best books I’ve read in a while.
Felicity Waterford
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written gentle love story wrapped in a fantastical mystical world. This is the second book I’ve read of this author and I have loved them both. 8.5/10
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This felt like part myth, part magical realism. A fisherman befriends a mermaid off the coast of a small Caribbean island. She is eventually captured by some visiting Americans (in a truly horrifying glimpse into just how awful people can be). What follows is a love story, a story of jealousy and revenge, and a story of friendship, longing and grief. It took me a couple of chapters to get into the rhythm of Roffey's writing, but once I did, the story was captivating. ...more
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rosy, sea, caribbean
Loved the voices, some irresistible, others given a shudder, but all ringing true. And the story which is told so straight forward and entrancing to read.
May 15, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2020
Outstanding. Really fucking beautiful.
Jackie Law
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Mermaid of Black Conch, by Monique Roffey, is set in a tiny Caribbean village where the history of occupation and slavery still rubs raw amongst residents. Many are of mixed race and interrelated, with few secrets possible. Much of the land is still owned by a woman of English descent.

The story is told from the point of view of a local fisherman, David Baptiste. It opens in 1976 when David goes out on the water early to smoke ganja and strum his guitar while waiting for a catch. A mile or so
Kelly-Lois Morgan
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“She has come to claim me and teach me about the giving of my heart as well as my loins, of being more whole than I’d been till then. I was enraptured by her and also afraid, because she ent become no mermaid by no accident”.

I too became enraptured by her...hook, line and sinker. 

If you were to dismiss this novel thinking it is merely a story about a man who fell in love with a mermaid, you would be doing yourself an injustice. 

Set in the Carribean village, I was initially drawn to the novel’s r
Pamela Scott
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Roffey is one of my favourite writers. I’ve read and loved all of her books. I discovered her work because she was featured in an Open University course I did several years ago. I found out about thus book during an episode of Richard and Judy’s lockdown reading show a couple of months ago and had to have it. I loved this book. I devoured it in one sitting. I’ve read and enjoyed a decent amount of fiction featuring mermaid mythology so was looking forward
Catherine McCafferty Chambers
Nov 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
'Men only wanted to take hold of her freedom and keep it for themselves'

I tend to get stuck in specific genres. I fall into judging books by their covers, and I already have preconceived ideas of what types of stories are "for" me, what is worth my time. I know that I would never have picked up The Mermaid of Black Conch if it hadn't been loaned to me by a friend. This experience has taught me that I am really missing out!

This book is magical. I could not put it down. At a time when I needed e
Neil Challis
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
A lonely fisherman strumming his guitar on his boat sees a sight he thought he would never see,a woman looking at him from rocks,no ordinary person but a Mermaid.Couldn't accept what he saw but visited again but no luck.But an American fisherman on a big fish safari caught the creature and strung it up for all to see,David the native fisherman cuts her down and takes her home.She then starts turning into a young woman ,losing her tail and trying to walk.He falls in love with her,the 1st person h ...more
Sarah Potter
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing

This is a beautiful, evocative, and unique novel. I knew I'd love it when I heard the author reading an extract from it on the radio. Set in the Caribbean, it draws on local ancient legends about merfolk, its central theme a powerful romance between a Black Conch fisherman and an ill-fated mermaid.

Monique Roffey has a wonderful flow to her writing that tantalises all your senses. She was raised in the Caribbean and much of this novel is written in local lingo, which ups the flavour of the story

Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
This fable-like story will wrap you up in its many twists and turns. Although the title bearing “a love story” initially put me off, after reading this book I can’t imagine a better subtitle. This story works on many levels, but at its heart it is about the love of place, time, and people. It also does not flinch away from how love does not protect from loneliness. This book is people led with lonely characters whose choices and dreams pivot around this issue. However, it also touches on issues ...more
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Monique Roffey is an award winning writer. Her most recent novel, The Mermaid of Black Conch (Peepal Tree Press) won the Costa Novel Award, 2020 and was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths prize, 2020.

Her other novels have been shortlisted for The Orange Prize, COSTA Fiction Award, Encore and Orion Awards. In 2013, Archipelago won the OCM BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Literature. She is a Senior Lecturer

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