January 23, 2013
Elijah’s Mermaid by Essie Fox
‘Water is the strangest element, don’t you think? Sometimes it is quite magical…to take on so many varied forms.’
These are the words of Lily Lamb, a foundling who is adopted with her twin brother Elijah by their grandfather, writer Augustus Lamb. In this gripping novel, the changing waters of the river Thames takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through the twists and turns of a tale of possession, betrayal and hidden secrets.
Pearl is rescued from the murky waters of the Thames as an infant by the notorious Tip Thomas after her mother drowned. She is brought up in an infamous brothel, The House of Mermaids, under the care of the enigmatic Mrs Hibbert, who is always masked by black veils. A beautiful and almost mythical character, Pearl’s history merges with tales of mermaids of the deep and when she comes of age she is sold to the possessive and violent painter, Osborne Black who wants her for his muse. When a chance encounter brings Pearl, Lily and Elijah together in the Mermaid House at Cremorne Gardens, their two worlds collide and life is never the same again. The instant attraction between Pearl and Elijah plunges them into the dark waters of the past as they struggle for a future together and stumble upon secrets that have been long buried.
Elijah’s Mermaid is a haunting tale of obsessive love, loss and lies. It is a story of deep secrets and devastating betrayals all set in the shocking reality of the Victorian underworld. Essie Fox skilfully recreates a world of shadows and illusions. The narrative is beautifully written invoking powerful images throughout from the filthy water of the Thames to the shining stream of Kingsland House, the idyllic country home of the Lambs. Her research is meticulous yet she writes with a deft touch, creating a vivid and evocative story that draws you straight in and doesn’t let you go until the end. With the characters, the reader rides the waves and plummets the depths exploring the intriguing and sensuous atmosphere of the brothel and the harrowing experience of a lunatic asylum. The alluring image of the mermaid is woven magically through the novel, binding the characters together and beckoning the reader on. Diary entries, letters and newspaper articles enhance the dual-voice narrative and add layers of intrigue.
This is a truly gothic novel, combining all the elements of the tradition: dark and powerful characters, mystery and horror. Essie Fox is a brilliant storyteller and I love her writing. For me Elijah’s Mermaid is the ‘perfect’ story and its shadowy secrets lingered with me long after I had finished reading. I would highly recommend this enchanting novel and I can’t wait to read the next one.
Elijah’s Mermaid is available now and there more details on her excellent website.