Friday, August 17, 2012

Ingo by Helen Dunmore

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  I wish I was away in Ingo, Far across the sea, Sailing over the deepest waters, Where love nor care can trouble me...

Sapphire's father mysteriously vanishes into the waves off the Cornwall coast where her family has always lived. She misses him terribly, and she longs to hear his spellbinding tales about the Mer, who live in the underwater kingdom of Ingo. Perhaps that is why she imagines herself being pulled like a magnet toward the sea. But when her brother, Conor, starts disappearing for hours on end, Sapphy starts to believe she might not be the only one who hears the call of the ocean.

And here's what I thought:  I had never heard of this book, or this series, until someone I work with lent me her copy --- and I'm glad she did, because this was a really good read.

There were a lot of elements here that I liked.  First, the writing pulled me in, so that I became wrapped up in the characters, and the two places (Sapphire's home, and Ingo).  The author has a way of giving the characters such true voices that I felt like I was experiencing the book through Sapphire, and not just reading about her doing things, and seeing things, and hearing things.   I also liked that the author took some of the familiar aspects of traditional mermaid lore, and gave them some fresh twists.  This story isn't just about Sapphire being drawn to things that are in the sea, but it's about her having to understand the difficult choices that she faces, as well as how she has to face the changes that have happened since her father vanished.   The author does a nice job with foreshadowing in the story, so that here and there, there are little hints of what is really happening --- but not so much that the story is predictable.  It's actually not completely predictable, which I liked.  The author also puts some sinister elements in the story, which I also liked --- the sea is fickle by nature, and can be dangerous, even when it's beautiful.

First lines:  You'll find the Mermaid of Zennor inside Zennor Church, if you know where to look.  She's carved from old, hard, dark wood.  The church is dark, too, so you have to bend down to see her clearly.  You can trace the shape of her tail with your finger.  Someone slashed across her with a knife a long time ago.  A sharp, angry knife.  I touched the slash mark very gently, so I wouldn't hurt the mermaid any more.


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