Not your average mermaid tale
The ocean currents are shifting and life beneath the waves is altering in big ways, but it seems that the humans who live on the land are oblivious of the changes. Sirena, elder of the mermaid people, is appointed to take her two scouts to the human’s lands to investigate what they know about the environmental changes.
Her exploration takes Sirena and her two daughters to the Abrolhos islands, off Western Australia. There, Sirena takes on the alias of Vanessa and meets fisherman come electrician Joe. Sirena finds herself becoming more and more attracted to this down to earth male, but is the connection between them enough to make her forget the man she first loved and lost to the ocean?
It may be about mermaids, but this story is not your average stardust and magic tale. There are no airs and graces. The characters are earthy. The relationship between Vanessa and Joe has very little romance in it, and appears to be highly physical. While I longed for more ‘anticipation’ and less ‘participation’ in their interactions, I felt that Ms Carlton achieved a certain level of differentiation with this approach, which was further supported by the almost mechanical speech of the mermaids. This technique emphasized the differences in the species.
Ocean’s gift has a distinctly Australian culture to it. It’s there in the character’s speech, the choice of food, aromas and activities and is one of the draw cards of this novel. At times, I felt that the story moved a little slowly, but realize that too served to emphasize the laid back culture of the Australian islands and the differences in time perspectives between the mermaids and the humans. I do wish there had been more about Sirena’s home beneath the waves. The references to the environment were tasteful and thought-provoking. Overall I really enjoyed this novel.