‘The Surface Breaks’ by Louise O’Neill is enchanting.
Synopsis: Motherless Gaia has been sworn to a mer-man since the age of 12. As her sixteenth year, and bonding, approaches Gaia is permitted to break the sea’s surface. On this fateful trip, she saves a man from the sea’s grip and falls in love. Now, with only weeks of freedom left, Gaia seeks the help of the Sea Witch. In exchange for a human body, Gaia strikes a deal with huge consequences. She has a deadline in which to make the man return her feelings, but the odds are stacked against her. Can her beauty save her?
Gaia is the focal point of the story and it is her journey you follow. I liked her. I didn’t at first because she seemed to be a follower. Sure, she had differing views and opinions but she never voiced them fully. She was oppressed and constantly being put down. Her beauty and voice were the only things that mattered. It’s a slow process for her to realise that she is strong and her worth isn’t based on her looks or talent. I enjoyed the discovery she went on and I had a real ‘you go girl’ moment in the last few pages. I also admired her determination and commitment. She had courage in spades and no matter how dire her chances became, she clung to the hope of a happy ending.
The cover of the book says ‘A reimagining of the The Little Mermaid’ and it definitely is that. There are many similarities, such as the physical appearance of our princess, the deal she strikes with the Sea Witch etc, but there are also many differences and it’s these differences that set it well apart from the classic tale. This book is much more bloodthirsty and is more reminiscent of the brutal fairytales. There’s death, there’s pain, there’s plenty of blood and wounds. But the most scary thing of all, is the way women are treated. As possessions, as objects to covet and discard when their beauty fades. Men in this world are the real monsters and it was interesting to see Gaia notice it.
There is no classic ‘happily ever after’ here and I doubt any of the characters will end up truly happy, but some characters got what they deserved and I saw the ending as more of a beginning. A lot had to be sacrificed for the ending we got and I can’t imagine the characters wasting it. It is dark, it is full of anger and sadness, it is totally bewitching. Definitely for fans of the original fairytales rather than the PG Disney ones. It has a lot of power packed into it and it’s beautifully written.
“I’m beginning to wonder that if, when we call a woman crazy, we should take a look at the man by her side, and guess at what he has done to drive her to insanity.”
You can get it here