TITLE: ELIJAH’S MERMAID
AUTHOR: ESSIE FOX
PUBLISHER: ORION BOOKS
GENRE: HISTORICAL FICTION
COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK
BLURB FROM THE COVER
Since she was found as a baby, floating in the Thames one foggy night, web-toed Pearl has been brought up in a brothel known as the House of Mermaids. Cosseted and pampered there, it is only when her fourteenth birthday approaches that Pearl realises she is to be sold to the highest bidder.
Meanwhile, orphaned twins, Lily and Elijah, have shared an idyllic childhood, raised in a secluded country house with their grandfather, Augustus Lamb. But when Lily and Elijah visit London, a chance meeting with Pearl will have repercussions for all of them, binding their fates together in a dark and dangerous way.
THE OPENING LINE
MYSTERIOUS DEATH – Late on Thursday evening, Mr Davies, deputy coroner, held a lengthened enquiry at The Eight Bells public-house in Chelsea, touching the circumstances attending the death of an apparently respectable woman, name unknown, whose body was found floating in the River Thames of Millbank on the morning of Monday last.
Elijah’s Mermaid took me by surprise. Until page 100+ I thought it was good but felt Fox’s debut novel The Somnambulist I read recently was superior. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, Fox knocked the feet from under me and Elijah’s Mermaid blew me away. From this point, the moment when Osborne Black has Pearl locked in an asylum, I was hooked. I read the rest of Elijah’s Mermaid in a state of frenzy. It was that good.
I love the title. I think Elijah’s Mermaid is a great title. I also love the front cover.
Elijah’s Mermaid is mainly narrated in the first person with the viewpoint alternating between Lily and Pearl. This worked really well. I felt the voice of both characters was really strong and they managed to carry the story. I’m not a fan of multiple narrators generally but Fox manages to pull it off in Elijah’s Mermaid. She makes it clear who the narrator of each chapter is so I didn’t feel lost. I liked the intimate insight Fox gave us into both characters’ lives I think would have been lost with a more distant third person narrator.
Like The Somnambulist, the characterisation in Elijah’s Mermaid was spot on. The cast of characters is a decent size and Fox makes all of them leap off the page. It would have been easy to wedge in a couple of stereotypes but Fox doesn’t sink to this. There are several nasty characters including Osborne Black who bought Pearl to be his muse and brutalised her and the sinister Tip Thomas from the House of Mermaids. Fox managed to make these nasty characters unsettling and creepy without resorting to stereotypes.
Like The Somnambulist, I was impressed by the quality of writing in Elijah’s Mermaid. The language is simple yet vivid and powerful. It was a joy to read Elijah’s Mermaid. Every sentence and word worked.
Elijah’s Mermaid is also set in Victorian London like The Somnambulist. I think Fox did a great job of bringing this period in history to life. I particularly enjoyed the scenes inside the asylum. I think these were very unsettling and realistic.
I love the twists and turns Elijah’s Mermaid takes. After page 100+ Pearl is committed to an asylum by Osborne Black, presumably for losing her virginity to Elijah. From that moment Fox builds suspense and tension at dizzying rate with revelation after revelation that left me breathless. I was impressed by the way Fox handled the complicated sequence of events.
I enjoyed everything about Elijah’s Mermaid. I can’t think of single thing I didn’t like.
Elijah’s Mermaid is a great novel. It’s a Victorian gothic suspense novel that blew me away. Fox has become a ‘must read’ author. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Elijah’s Mermaid is a delight to read.