The Surface Breaks – Louise O’Neill – Review

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Synopsis Logo

Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice? Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens, with the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building that has won Louise her legions of devoted fans. A book with the darkest of undercurrents, full of rage and rallying cries: storytelling at its most spellbinding.

My Rating Logo5 star logo

A spellbinding re-imagining of The Little Mermaid, with undercurrents so dark and gorgeous.

My Thoughts

The Little Mermaid is one of my favourite stories and my ‘healthy’ obsession with mermaids has increased along with my age. There are quite a few mermaid/siren books circling around at the moment and I’ll tell you now, The Surface Breaks is worth the read!

My eyes were blessed the minute I saw the cover! I think you’ll agree with me when I say it’s absolutely stunning – it’s even more beautiful in person and underneath the dust cover, you’ll find a flurry of gorgeous foil scales. I love this extra special detail, it’s definitely one of the prettiest books in my collection.

I read the first hundred pages very quickly. The story was incredibly immersive and I was rather sad when I had to leave it and go to sleep! The book is most definitely on the smaller side for a hardback, which explains why it’s so quick and easy to read. If you don’t enjoy spending hours and hours reading, then you’ll enjoy the pace of this one.

I can clearly see the similarities the book has with The Little Mermaid story. Gaia has burning red hair and deep blue eyes and is described as a ‘real’ version of our favourite cartoon princess. The story itself has lots of similarities, but it’s also rather dark. It has a definite feel of the original story by Hans Christian Anderson and I loved the merge of the two versions, to make a magical yet utterly dark and thrilling story.

There’s one theme that is a constant – men are bastards. Now I’m sure some of the other mer-men are quite pleasant, but it’s very apparent who rules the roost and what part a woman must play – “Maids have been told that being slim is as important as being beautiful, as necessary as being obedient, as desirable as remaining quiet”. Apart from one, the human men aren’t much better – “They estimate the beauty of each passing girl, weighing it up with their friends. Listing pros and cons as if it is their decision to make, that the girls’ beauty will be determinedย by their opinion rather than objective fact, because they are men and a man’s word is final”. This really hits home with a younger me and will do with many women out there. Right now the feminist movement is huge and I love how and why the author chose to write it in this way.

The author also included some much needed diversity (needed in all books) and hinted at different sexuality’s. –ย “The freedom to hold another girl’s hand? Why had my father deemed such a simple act to be so terrible?” –ย “You are not unnatural, I would tell her. Love is never unnatural, no matter whom you decide to give it to”. This is something that is honestly so great to see included!

Gaia was much like Ariel, rather naive and sacrificed what she knew for what she believed was love. Ariel had a much more pleasant experience – Gaia was breaking and it was so hard to follow her through her journey. Her development was astounding and I was shouting along with her by the end – “Who are you? And more importantly, who will you be?”.

If you have any love for mermaid stories, then you must read this book! Prepare to be swept away with the current in this deep dark twisty tale.

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30 thoughts on “The Surface Breaks – Louise O’Neill – Review

  1. The cover of this book is absolutely gorgeous! It looks so pretty its almost a shame to put it on a bookshelf, it should be on display! This book sounds amazing and one I would love to pick up, once i’ve read the other 500 books I need to read!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ive read it recently and i really enjoyed it. but i started reading it thinking it was a teen but and was rly shocked by some of its content so i looked into it further and saw it was YA so it was an easier read then :’)

    Nice review!! ๐Ÿ˜€ I should probably write mine at some point

    Liked by 2 people

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