February 11, 2019 by TinyNavajo
The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
*Published May 3, 2018*
**TW: Sexual abuse, abuse, fat shaming, eating disorders
A little mermaid retelling that I have enjoyed more than others. The reason I picked it up is because I saw the cover while scrolling through Tumblr and saw the absolutely beautiful cover and after reading the blurb, I had to see what was going on.
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. A book with the darkest of undercurrents, full of rage and rallying cries: storytelling at its most spellbinding.
In this version of retelling, we learn that the Sea King has taken extreme control of not only his family (seven daughters) but of his kingdom as well. No one seeks to step out of line and incur his wrath. His daughters, Gaia included, strive to conform what the King of the Sea says is right, correct…perfect. In this feminist retelling of the The Little Mermaid, Louise O’Neill pulls from real life abuse where the females of this realm are oppressed by the males of the kingdom.
The main thing about this book was how much you could see the abuse Gaia and her sisters endure, as well as many others throughout the kingdom. But it’s when Gaia go to see the Sea Witch that she sees that there is a different way to live life, that there are ways to live without conforming to the unrealistic standards the Sea King has set, but she just wants to escape her impending arranged marriage and live life with the human she saves from drowning. But not everything is as it seems when she makes it to the human world. It when it comes to her decision to go through with the ending of the original fairy tale that she starts to stand up for herself and learn somethings about the world she grew up in under control of her father.
I think what also scares/makes me think about the characters in this book is how much the abuse is real. It feels real and it’s not something that I want to think about. That’s the reason books like this need to be written though, because there are others out there that have experienced this and may need/want to see someone overcome or fight back. I think…I’m not sure, like I said, I have not experienced anything like this. So, if I am wrong, please let me know so that I can reword what it is I’m trying to say.
I think what I enjoyed most about this story though is that we see the Sea Witch as a sympathetic character. I loved how well-rounded she was and how much a real character she seemed. She was my favorite part and if there is a sequel, then I would read it just to find out more about the Sea Witch.
How do you guys deal with books that have heavy subject matters? How do you rate them? Comment below and let me know!