Love story featuring mermaid named book of the year

A dark love story between a fisherman and a mermaid has been named book of the year.

Judges crowned The Mermaid Of Black Conch: A Love Story the winner of the 2020 Costa Book of the Year.

Trinidadian-born British writer Monique Roffey penned the story which features a mermaid, cursed for her beauty and talent, torn from the sea.

Roffey, 55, told the PA news agency that love is not always seen as a valid subject for fiction.

“Sometimes it’s not seen as enough,” she said. “And I think it is.

“I think it’s time we wrote more about love, especially in these terrible times. I think it is something that deserves to be able to be the subject of a book.”

The novel, set in 1976 in a tiny village on the Caribbean island of Black Conch, is described by judges as “a classic in the making”.

It is “a story of love, loss, family and friendship, as well as the destructive power of jealousy, and the terrible force of nature”.

Roffey, who has been writing for 20 years and wins the prize for her sixth novel, said: “Humanity’s been dreaming up mermaids for thousands of years and I think she just came to me too.

“There was a mermaid swirling around in my unconscious.”

Here's me reading a snippet from The Mermaid of Black Conch. Enjoy.

— Monique Roffey (@moniqueroffey) January 21, 2021

She said of her £30,000 win: “This will change the course and the fortunes of the book itself.

“It’s not written in standard English, it’s full of magical realism and it has an experimental form.

“So, until this prize, it was destined for a very marginal readership. And now I think the book will be read widely. And that for me is an enormous source of feeling of accomplishment.

“It’s a great thing for a book to land in the mainstream, especially one that was born to be read only by a marginal readership.”

Chairwoman of the judges, historian and author Professor Suzannah Lipscomb, said the novel is “an extraordinary, beautifully written, captivating, visceral book – full of mythic energy and unforgettable characters, including some tremendously transgressive women”.

“It is utterly original – unlike anything we’ve ever read – and feels like a classic in the making from a writer at the height of her powers.

“It’s a book that will take you to the furthest reaches of your imagination – we found it completely compelling.”

The Costa Book Awards are open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland and recognise books across five categories – first novel, novel, biography, poetry and children’s book – before an overall winner is crowned.

Tessa Sheridan, a London-based screenwriter and director, won the 2020 Costa Short Story Award for The Person Who Serves, Serves Again.