by Grendolyn Peach Soleil
The Mermaids Melt at Dawn is a collection of nine connected stories which twist, straddle and blur fantasy genres. We met Rok Lejeune, a runaway Cajun raised on folklore and Bajou magic who undertakes the perilous journey to Barbiche Island in order to meet with the fabled ‘coquillage’ mermaids. Once on Barbiche Island, the legends of the merfolk take centre-stage in a mythological telling of suffering, revenge and the ageless, infinite struggle for love, acceptance and survival.
The Mermaids Melt at Dawn is a gloriously, whimsical little novel that has a dark, distorted underside. Each of the nine tales is referred to as a ‘Yarn’ and it begins in a folksy/fairy story vein with the account of Rok Lejeune and his upbringing. The vocabulary is colloquial, imaginative and heavy with metaphor and poetry. It’s fantastically quirky and addictive with some wonderful expressions, ‘sheet-shaking’ being one of the many.
The ‘Yarns’ flit between voices and what appears to be naïve folktales are actually deceptively clever and skilled narratives. Ms Peach Soleil has a very distinctive and creative writing style. It will not be for everyone; The Mermaids Melt at Dawn is probably one of the most subjective books I have read. Yarn 3, between Rok and Kitty Jo was utterly poignant; at first the writing feels frothy and innocent, but this belies the heart-breaking content and emotional depth. In Yarn 4, the atmosphere becomes darker; heavy with supernatural foreboding as Rok travels to Barbiche Island. The next five yarns are pure mythology; esoteric and quite profound. I thought Yarn 8 to be the strongest with some powerful and philosophical writing, such as this touching phrase; ‘the sand in his hourglass was almost gone’.
Some of the yarns read like age-old myths but the cross-genre approach and innovative, folksy jargon make the stories feel vibrant. Personally, Yarn 6 was the weakest; it did not seem to have the inventive energy of the others. I also think the compact structure of the Yarns and relatively short length of the book is certainly instrumental in each story retaining its rustic, magical charm.
The Mermaids Melt at Dawn is a captivating collection of darkly delightful tales alive with ancient superstitions and Cajun mysticism. Highly recommended. Buy from: