A Completely Mesmerizing 'Little Mermaid' Retelling | Review: The Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill

10:22 PM

I know that a lot of people didn't love The Surface Breaks quite like they seem to love Louise O'Neill's backlit but I ADORED (!) it.

A dark and beautiful reimagining of The Little Mermaid.
Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice? Hans Christian Andersen's original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens, with the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building that has won Louise her legions of devoted fans in the UK. A book with the darkest of undercurrents, full of rage and rallying cries: storytelling at its most spellbinding.

The Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill 
Rating: ★★★★★

As always, a copy of this book was provided by the publisher or author in exchange for my honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way.

We all know I'm trash for retellings. We all know, hopefully, that I'm even bigger trash for The Little Mermaid based retellings. It was my favourite Disney film back in the day, but when I discovered the darkly woven Hans Christian Anderson one I was even more hooked on it than ever. I think it goes without saying why I was so keen on getting my grubby little paws (er, fins?) on The Surface Breaks.

In the case of the original story, there was always this horrific shiver of cruelty that tied the tale up. Fairy-tales are bleak and spooky and full of sharp, bitter prose. Which is why we love them. It equal parts broke my heart and indulged me. Modern retellings of the stories we all know, and at times, fear, can be hit or miss. In the case of Loiuse O'Neill, and the feminist and atmospheric spin she takes with the tale, it's definitely a hit.

Weeks before receiving an ARC of The Surface Breaks, I skimmed through a review that was quick to state a very important fact of this retelling: The Surface Breaks gives the mermaid a name and a voice. And, I mean, really, what more could you want from The Little Mermaid?

Enthralling, mysterious and still appropriately dark, The Surface Breaks reimagines and captures the essence of a the original story while crafting something that is uniquely its own. It centers around a tale not unlike what we've always known, but builds itself from the ground up in a way that surprised me. I loved the world-building, O'Neill's delectable writing and the characters.

This has definitely made it up there with A Curse So Dark and Lonely as one of my favourite retellings I've read during 2019. No, really and truly. Cross my heart and hope to crush the patriarchy. In terms of fantasy, The Surface Breaks was a definite standout and a blast from start to finish. I cherished my time with Gaia (a LEGEND) and the story's ending left me feeling breathless, exhilarated and almost out of my mind in the best possible way.

The best thing a retelling can do is feel familiar and unfamiliar all at once. While it had some weak moments in terms of the fantastical elements and length (and I've mindblowingly heard that this isn't Louise O'Neill's best work of fiction), I'm glad this fairy-tale was my first read of O'Neill's writing. Not only did it keep me engaged from the start, I found myself devouring The Surface Breaks fairly fast and wanted to drown in it for just one more page.

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