Elijah’s Mermaid is a book set in England during the Victorian era & it takes readers on a journey through both the respectable & richer parts of this setting & through to the darker, poorer areas where criminals, brothels & asylums rule the streets. I really enjoyed this book, with it’s layers & layers of themes & secrets, as well as it’s brutal honesty of England during the 1800s, but some scenes were difficult to read & left me feeling very uncomfortable.
This book contains sexism, racism, ableism, female genital mutilation,
sexual assault & domestic violence (both physical & mental)
Elijah’s Mermaid follows the tale of several individuals, whose stories all end up intertwined; we have Pearl, who we see grow up, living in a brothel & being looked after by the vile Tip Thomas & the strong Mrs Hibbert. We also meet the innocent, orphaned twins Lily & Elijah, who are saved from a children’s home by their mysterious ‘uncle’ Freddie & are then sent to live with their ever-loving, but heartbroken, paternal grandfather. As the story unfolds we discover that all of the characters are hiding something & that each of them is deeply damaged in one way or another. I loved watching the events of this tale unfold & the story was deeply unpredictable & brilliantly addictive.
Due to the time period that Elijah’s Mermaid is set in, some of the language used & some of the themes explored made for uncomfortable reading, but for me this made the book more interesting as it showed the real truth about what Victorian England was really like – especially for women. During this read I found myself getting very upset by the way the women were being treated & by how little power & influence they had over their own lives. But, I also found myself learning a lot about how the women’s asylums were run during this time, what doctors thought they knew about the brain & how the poorer streets in London operated. Despite the fact that Victorian England was a difficult place for women to live, every main female character in Elijah’s Mermaid is strong & clever, & despite their limited rights, they all manage to have an influence over their own lives in one way or another.
The writing style in Elijah’s Mermaid was difficult to follow at first, but once I had gotten used to it I found myself totally hooked onto the story. I have found that a lot of books set in Victorian England can be very dark & mysterious, & Essie Fox has managed to do this perfectly; creating a Gothic atmosphere on every page, that definitely left me scared & on edge in all the right places. Elijah’s Mermaid is also an absolute maze of twists & turns, that meant that I was unable to predict even the simplest of plot twists – I loved not knowing what was going to happen next & I loved experiencing the surprises of life’s outcomes with each of the main characters.
The ending of this book left me wanting to re-read it all over again, especially as I now know all of the secrets of all of the characters. The final chapters of this brilliant story were incredibly satisfying, tying up loose ends that I hadn’t even given much thought to. I also loved that the book ended with a newspaper article from 2012, that tells the reader what happened to the characters, but in a way that still allows the imagination to fill in some of the gaps. I think this story would make an incredible TV show & I can’t believe that it hasn’t be adapted before now; I also think that I need to read a lot more of Essie Fox’s work.
I also want to say that seeing my hometown used as the setting for a few chapters was incredible, it was such a surprise & such a strange experience but I absolutely loved it, & I had a massive grin on my face for the duration of two of the characters’ visit to my small seaside town.