The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

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“The Mermaid of Black Conch” by MoniqueRoffey accompanied my beach trip for three whole days and I would say that the best setting to enjoy this story is indeed by the sea.

Aycayia is half woman, half fish, a mermaid who has been living in the sea nearby Black Conch for 1000 years. Before that #Aycayia was a young woman with irksome beauty cursed by jealous wives from her village and sealed off inside a heavy tail.

Myriads of myths of sirens exist all over the world and there are countless interpretations in the collective imagination of mermaids being pulled from the see. The story of Aycayia is based on a #Taino legends.

Another source for inspiration of this novel is Neruda’s poem “The Mermaid and the Drunk” in which the poet contrasts the mermaid and the drunk men, imagination and reality, beauty and ugliness.

The story of novel is set in the 70ies when Aycayia is rescued by the fisherman of Black Conch David. Painfully she transforms into a woman again. But will she escape the course?

The book discusses issues of womenhood, which could be dangerous business if you did not get it right, how women hate other women, how patriarcal societies seal off female sexualty.

The author uses the story of the mermaid and of the locals of Black Conch to reflect upon the consequences of colonialism. The imaginary island is a place of thousands of slaughtered Caribs and kidnapped Africans, every bay had seen a bloody battle and countless murders on the beaches.

I particularly like the character of Miss Rain who is ‘a white women with Creole song in the mouth’. All this Creole sound in the text is very intriguing from a linguistic point of view. Miss Rain speaks Black Conch English, a mixture of words from the oppressor and the oppressed.

And a favorite Trini word is Tabanca which means longing, missing something beyond words.

The book received the Costa book award which is always awarded to outstanding stories, never disappointing. Pity that after 50 editions it came to its end.

♀️ July 25th is the International Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Womxn’s Day