Friday 3 September 2010


Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith (black dog books)
PB RRP $18.99
ISBN 9781742031361
Reviewed by Sandi Wooton

A skilful blend of myth, legend and superstition, Braxton-Smith has created a tale of exceptional beauty. This story will not only appeal to teenage girls, but to anyone who is interested in traditional folklore.

On Neen’s island, life can be as harsh and unpredictable as the changing landscape. Isolated from the villagers, eking out a meagre living on a remote part of the island with her aunt, Neen has been searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance; if her mother really was a merrow (mermaid) as many people believed, perhaps she had returned to her home in the ocean?

From the beginning, we are tempted to believe in the folklore so prevalent on Neen’s island. Was Neen’s mother a merrow, or wasn’t she? Was the world inhabited by otherworldly beings, or just by ordinary creatures? This is a story of a girl finding it difficult to understand the world, struggling to find her place in it – it’s about the challenges she faces leaving her childhood behind. Teenage girls will identify with Neen as she discovers the truth about her mother’s disappearance on her journey to adulthood.

Superbly written, the language is quite descriptive and often poetic:

“I dreamt I swam again in the kelp forest. In tangled light and flowing undertow, a wrecked hull rocked white and skeletal in the long grass. Its keel, ribs and battens were marked all over with hands sinuous, like anemones, and right in its middle sat an ornate locked trunk. I opened it and the water around me filled at once with pearls, all floating upward. I grabbed at one as it rose and brought it to my face. I saw the kraken inside with all its hooked legs; another held a line of people with torches walking forever along undersea paths; another, a wailing changeling child. I woke up. I had a feeling of doom.”

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Merrow and would recommend the book as “a top pick” for children aged ten and above.

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