Winner of the Costa Novel Award 2020
A vivid and moving story of love and loss, family and friendship in a tiny Caribbean island community.
March 1976: St Constance, a tiny Caribbean village on the island of Black Conch. A fisherman sings to himself, waiting for a catch – but attracts a sea-dweller he doesn’t expect. A beautiful young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid has been swimming the Caribbean Sea for centuries. And she is entranced by the fisherman and and his song. But her fascination is her undoing. She hears his boat’s engine again, follows it, and finds herself at the mercy of American tourists. After a fearsome battle, she is pulled out of the sea and strung up on the dock as a trophy. The fisherman rescues her, and gently wins her trust – as she starts to transform into a woman. The novel’s characters are an unlikely mix: a mermaid, a fisherman, a deaf boy, a Caribbean artist and sweetman and a benevolent white landowner. Themes of unconditional love, friendship, family and loss, are examined without sentimentality.
“The Mermaid of Black Conch is a new Caribbean myth that feels as ancient as the very beginning of oral storytelling. It’s modernity comes from the way it weaves in fresh ideas on gender, sexuality, ecology, history, migration, transformation and transfiguration. The monumental task of finding that liminal space between the ancient and the modern is done so seamlessly that Monique Roffey will have you think that you always knew this story somehow, deep down in the marrow of your bones.” Roger Robinson, T.S. Eliot shortlisted poet, A Portable Paradise.
"The Mermaid of the Black Conch arrives bearing tragedy and beauty. Monique Roffey has created a new myth for an age of ruined oceans. She continues to be one of our most exciting new Caribbean voices.” AL Kenned