The Mermaid of Black Conch

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey cover image

Life, eh! When you’re tired – years and years tired – of the struggle, of the battering of socialism, of feminism, of the average person’s chance to even earn a crust; when you know you’ve got too bitter and stroppy to do any good, and all but withdrawn from the fight, and a friend passes you a damned novel to read.

It’s a damned novel about a damned mermaid, and you ignore it in socialist-materialist hubris for a week or two, then think oh well, I suppose a silly distraction will do, and you wade in and oh my goodness, mermaid etc et bloody cetera.

And then the story gets you by the throat – and gets the mermaid by the throat and oh my! And you dive in and you thrash around in the gargantuan, gorgeous, Caribbean sea, and run through the island forests, with howler-monkeys a-howling overhead, and you fall in love with the people and the peoples of the islands, past, present, ancient and even more ancient…

And you feel better, because you can’t do socialism or feminism if you’re not in love with the people and the peoples, and you emerge from the end of the novel realising that whilst you’ve known for a wearisomely long time that mermaids symbolise female sexuality, now you *know* it. And you realise that you have known all along what needs to be done about sexism, and racism and the awkwardness and the guilt that can emerge around disability, and around vexing terms like ‘mixed race’ and ‘bisexual’, and you just ran straight past the answers because they looked like taking too long. And you realise that you have known all along that we can’t do environmentalism whilst we’re all – rich and poor alike – hanging onto daft ideas about property, and defending whatever scraps we’ve each laid hands on.

And you’re ready to be up and doing again, all because of a damned novel about a damned mermaid.

If you need a break from the struggle, I recommend ‘The Mermaid of Black Conch’ by Monique Roffey. Forget the struggle, it’s a great story. (heh heh heh, cackled the evil old women from long ago).


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