The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey
I always leave my Reading Group book until a couple of days before the meeting, because I like it to be fresh in my mind when the group meets. So, I had a look at the length of the book (187 pages) and the fairly large clear print, and then at the number of little bits and pieces that needed doing in the garden… and left it, and left it, and then left it again, until suddenly it was the night before the meeting.
I instantly formulated a cunning plan – to just read all day. I reckoned that was a pretty good plan actually! However, we woke up to a glorious morning, and my husband said “Let’s go for a walk!”, and I thought, well, I can read it in the car on the way there, and back, and I can carry it in my rucksack and read it at lunchtime, and it’s only 187 pages, and I am an optimistic human. And then I forgot to take my reading glasses.
After an absolute saga involving detours and locked gates (on a footpath) and a missed bus, we made it home an hour and a half before the Reading Group meeting, and I abandoned my rucksack and husband in the kitchen and read. I finally finished two minutes before the zoom link went active. Fresh in my mind? It was still writhing!
This is a wonderful book. It’s like being held in a comforting hug whilst being told a story. I could see the characters, and I could hear their voices. I cared deeply about all of them. It felt mythological, despite being set in 1976, and no, Aycayia is not your fairytale mermaid, she is something altogether more ancient and complicated.
One of those books where you finish, and you are slightly shocked that there is still a real world out there. I am actually grateful that disorganisation (or fate) made me read this in one sitting, because it was heady. Also, astonishingly the first time everyone in the group has been in agreement about a book, although most of them appeared to have had time to think about what they were going to say.
I promise I’ll be better prepared next time.