The Mermaid in the MillPond is a dark, tense and hopeful story intertwining history and myth in perfect symbiosis. I was absolutely entranced by this richly atmospheric tale with its depiction of the harsh realities of life for children working in Victorian mills; the slow building of the heart-warming friendship that develops between Bess and Dot; and, the symbolism between the mermaid’s situation and that of Bess.
The story is written as a first-person narrative through the eyes of eleven-year-old Bess. She arrives from a London workhouse to the rural cotton mill with the hope and false promise that life will be better. However, she soon discovers that the mill’s conditions are bleak and harsh, and desperately longs for escape, determined to leave the life she is forced to endure behind her …
Bess soon hears tales of a terrifying monster – a mermaid – living in the millpond, but she does not believe what she has heard … until she sees something in the water. Could this creature be just as trapped as Bess? Will either be able to escape their prison and find freedom?
Bess is an incredibly sympathetic young girl who has suffered loss and is trying to protect herself by acting tough and not caring about others. But then she meets Dot. I loved the slow building of the friendship between these two wonderful young girls as they tentatively begin to hope and plan for the chance of a better life, as they build trust and look out for each other.
This is a fast-paced, tense and exciting adventure with unexpected twists and cliff-hanger chapter endings that had me desperate to read on … utterly unputdownable!
The illustrations by Pam Smy are absolutely stunning: rich, detailed and expressive, perfectly evoking the dark, yet hopeful, atmosphere, throughout the story.
The Mermaid in the MillPond is a heartfelt story of grief, of cruelty and of loneliness, but is also a story of survival, of friendship and of hope. It is a short, but incredibly powerful and moving read, and is one I will certainly be adding to my class library when it is published on 6th January.
Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.