Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Mermaids by Patty Dann
So begins this extraordinary first novel about one wild year in the life of fourteen-year-old Charlotte Flax, when she and her sister Kate move with Mrs. Flax into a sleepy 1960's Massachusetts town. Mrs. Flax is a woman who wears polka-dot dresses and serves hors d'oeuvres for dinner every night, and Kate is a child who basically wants to be a fish.
And then there's Charlotte, who in Patty Dann's hands, is transformed into a young woman of infinite whim and variety. Charlotte's main ambition in life is to become a saint, preferably martyred, though she's Jewish. She's smitten with the shy young caretaker at the convent at the top of the hill. Dann has created a young girl who accepts the unkindness of the mad universe in which she's whirling and takes it on with a savage glee.
This insomniac's opinion:
I realize that my reading of this novel is somewhat backwards. Mermaids, the movie made from this novel, is one of my favorite movies. I love the quirky wonderfulness of Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci as the sisters coming of age in a time that quirkiness wasn't appreciated. So, I was watching the movie a few weeks ago and I noticed the mention that it was based off of a novel. What???? How did I miss this? I immediately got on Half.com and scored an original 1986 hard-cover for pennies. Score!
Just wait, it gets better. You know how you can tell if a book has never been read by the way the pages lay? I could immediately tell that no one had ever flipped a page of this novel. It was a virgin book, my friends! I realize that not everyone would be excited by this, but I most certainly was. I immediately set about taking the book's virginity.
I really enjoyed this short novel. Charlotte is delightfully quirky and the author does a wonderful job of capturing that awful teenage insecurity that overcomes most of us at that age. I do regret not getting to read this novel before seeing the movie because the faces of the actors immediately became the faces of these characters as I began to read. You just can't knock the strong personalities of Cher, Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci out of your mind once they have taken the roles and made them their own. I read this novel in one sitting and was absolutely delighted by it.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Definitely worth reading and no need to stay up all night- I finished it in a couple of hours!
Rating: 4 stars