The Surface Breaks is a feminist re-telling of The Little Mermaid all dressed up and ready to go in the most beautiful cover I’ve seen all year. Louise O’Neill takes the story of The Little Mermaid back to it’s Hans Christian Anderson roots moving away from the Disney version we all know so well.
When I was a little girl I loved Ariel and watched that movie many times but I also owned the (1975) Anime version of the tale. Which is a very close re-telling to the original fairy-tale and as a girl enjoyed both but for different reasons. It’s a much darker story which Disney turned on it’s head and made into something light and filled with a romantic musicality.
I was excited to head into this new re-telling and from the first few pages I knew it had the original story ingrained in it’s roots. Louise O’Neill tells the story we all know well of a young mermaid princess who falls in love with a human boy, and after saving his life desperately wishes to become human. But there are two twists to this tale, the first is her feminist take on a classic, the Mer-people but specifically the mermaids live in a misogynistic and patriarchal society where there only choices are to be pretty to be silent and to be mothers. Beauty is how our little mermaid and her sisters measure their value and it causes repression, anguish and a fierce sibling rivalry.
The second twist to this tale, no pun intended is this stories darkness long gone are the singing crabs and fishes for best friends but one thing stood still and firm, her roots at the very centre of The Little Mermaid’s story, I am talking of cause about The Sea Witch. But even the word witch is turned on it’s head on this tale. The Sea Witch is a major character in all versions and in The Surface Breaks I enjoyed this complicated interpretation of her character Ceto. She’s the centre of most of the stories darkest moments but has some great lines and oodles of body positivity all the while leaving me not really knowing if she was good or evil or just morally grey.
I really enjoyed this book, I would say it took a little while to get going, a lot of time was spent in Mer-society which was great… but I could of cut that just slightly shorter and gone above water sooner. The is a very famous fairy tale after all even down to the mermaid losing her beautiful singing voice, all major plot points we know and love they remain. So there was no need to drag certain things out because as readers we know where the story is heading because we’ve been there before, it’s just a case of where we end up.
The book really got going up for me in the last 50 pages and while reading I felt we were in for a huge pay off. And I really did love the ending… but I could of done with an Epilogue or another chapter, the ending just felt a little unfinished to me especially in terms of Oliver I think he (and i’m being as vague as possibly here to keep it spoiler free) but I feel that all I really needed was a paragraph or two on him and then a chapter on what happens after the end of the book as we know it. It was brilliant but felt a little vague.
Anyone who has read The Surface Breaks let me know your opinions I would love to hear your thoughts.
Over all loved it! Great story telling and an interesting perspective from a unique female character who grows and develops as the story unfurls.
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