Saturday 5 January 2013

Elijah's Mermaid by Essie Fox

Published by Orion Books 2012
387 pages
Part One: 
In Which We Are Introduced To Pearl And Learn Of Those Momentous Events That Occurred At The Time Of Her ‘Finding’
Article taken from The Times Newspaper: May 1850
MYSTERIOUS DEATH –Late on Thursday evening, Mr Davies, deputy coroner, held a lengthened enquiry at The Eight Bells public-house in Chelsea, touching the circumstances attending the death of an apparently  respectable woman, name unknown, whose body was found floating in the River Thames off Millbank on the morning of Monday last.
Summary from Waterstones
Saved from the Thames one foggy London night, Pearl grows up at the House of Mermaids - a brothel that becomes the closest thing to home. But despite being cosseted and spoiled by the Madame, come her 14th year, Pearl is to be sold to the highest bidder. Orphaned twins Lily and Elijah are on a rare trip to London when they meet the ethereal Pearl. And the repercussions of this chance encounter will bind all their fates together, in a dark and dangerous way. Bewitching, gothic
and sensual, this is a tale of love and betrayal in a world where nothing is quite as it seems.
Reviewed by K. M. Lockwood
The synopsis above and the extract indicate the kind of shadowy Victorian mystery Essie Fox has created. This impression will be confirmed by the intricate and appealing cover and the strap-line: Deep Waters. Dark Secrets.
 The impression is correct. This is a sinister tale full of 19th century hypocrisy, convoluted plotlines and great foggy film sets of Victorian atmosphere.  The tale is told through Elijah’s diary, fragments of related texts and the voices of Pearl and Lily. It is helpful to have the chapter headings with their evocative quotations 
 It is deeply Gothic, perhaps more Wilkie Collins than Charles Dickens – and definitely not suitable for younger readers. Some aspects are very dark indeed, though handled with great empathy, especially for the women. 
 Essie Fox certainly knows her period detail (she keeps a fascinating blog: The Virtual Victorian - and out of this a story encompassing art, secrets and the 19th century demi-monde of London has grown.
 My only slight reservation is that for me her choice of words occasionally broke the Victorian spell and jolted me back to the 21st century. But I cheerfully acknowledge it could be just my personal reaction. On the other hand, I thought her end notes and glossary were a welcome addition to the hardback.
 So in short, if you like an elaborate, atmospheric tale full of betrayal, disturbing characters and skeletons in family cupboards, then this is for you.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The fact that this is entwined in a gothic, Victorian London setting makes me really want to read it. Plus I love quirky chapter headings. This is going on my wish list!

  3. This is an awesome review, I bought The Somnambulist by this author for my cousin for Christmas, and keep eying them up to buy for myself as well

    Cait x

  4. Terrific review! This gothic tale sounds almost irresistible!

  5. This sounds like a bewitching tale! I am adding it to my TBR!


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