Sirena is a mermaid, a siren. One of fifty of her kind, the result of a rape (Eros the god of love and lust and a parrot fish) she is a creature of the gods, but not immortal. However, her sisters and her can become immortal if a man loves them. To help them with this they were given the gift of song.
The Trojan War approaches and more ships come by their rocky homes. They sing for the men to come to them, but the men drown or die on the rocky islands which have no food or water on them. Sirena is disgusted and saddened by the deaths, but her sisters don't care as long as they become immortal.
So she leaves and decides to forever live alone. But on the island where she decides to live a man is abandoned for ten long years, and a mermaid who thought she could only seduce becomes aware that true love does exists after all.
This is beautiful, sad and the way mythology should always be told. You can only hope when you finish it that our lovers are reunited someday somehow.
on December 6, 2000
"Sirena" was yet another great novel by Napoli, and one of her best! Napoli always manages to take a story we all know something about, this time the legendary Greek sirens, and turn it into something special.
Sirena, a young mermaid, half human and half fish, lives with her many sisters when they are told something important: if they can get a human man to love them, they will become immortal. However, when Sirena sees many shipwrecked men die, she wonders if immortality is worth a loss of life.
When tragedy strikes, Sirena swims away to the island of Lemnos where she finds an abandoned Greek soldier. Will they fall in love, and will Sirena become immortal?
This book was excellent, and I'd recommend it for ages 12 and up. Be sure to read Napoli's other works, especially "Song of the Magdalene"!
on November 26, 2004
That was the word that came to my mind when I finished reading this book: wow! Usually I am not fond of the use of either first person narrative or present tense in the writing of a book, but in this instance I was willing to make a huge exception. So great is Donna Jo Napoli's writing skill that she not only made both of these narration methods work, but more importantly, she made them work really well--something rarely accomplished by the majority of authors.
The thing I liked most about the book was that Ms Napoli totally managed to get inside the psyche of the mermaid Sirena--and did so so perfectly that you'd almost think she must be a mermaid herself! The realism of not only this character, but also the other characters, animals, plants and scenery is amazing. In fact, this book is so utterly believable that you might even find yourself suspecting that the gods, goddesses, nymphs and legendary heroes of Greek mythology who regularly pop up in it really do exist.
The plot in this book seems simple--a mermaid must win the love of a mortal man to claim her right to immortality. But in this premise's simplicity is a depth and complexity that astounded me. Either this author was extremely knowledgeable about Greek mythology to begin with (because there's way more stuff in here than you'll ever learn just by watching 'Troy' or 'Clash of the Titans') or she's done her research meticulously. It's kind of like a Greek history/geography lesson, but a million times more fun! You will probably want to set sail for Greece right away, just like I do, to see for yourself the glorious places that this book describes.
Sirena herself is a wonderful character whom you can't help but empathise with. She is naive at first, having lived a relatively sheltered life, but she is intelligent and adaptable, and learns quickly even the hardest of lessons that life has to teach (for even immortal life is not without its ups and downs.)
If your heart and soul are yearning to read a heartfelt love story, but your brain insists on it being a well-written, believable one with candour and wit, then this beautiful tale is for you. It is listed as a young adult book, which means it is suitable for anyone aged twelve and over, but that recommendation shouldn't put off adult readers, who I'm sure will enjoy it just as much as I did!
on July 25, 2006
I am slightly disappointed by author Donna Jo Napoli.
I had heard a lot of reviews praising "Sirena" and couldn't wait to read it; when I finally did so, I was slightly let down.
This book does not have the magic of many of Napoli's other books, and its story is not as captivating.
The plot sounds engaging at first; Sirena is a siren, cursed to be lonely and mortal unless she can find a man who will love her. Only then can she become immortal. However, she realizes too soon that her one gift for winning men, her seductive song, only leaves them either dead or angry. How can she ever find a human that will truly love her, when she is little more than a cursed hybrid?
The book starts out okay, too...but about halfway through we start realizing that there's not really much to the story. Most of the book is spent on the island of Lemnos, where not much happens and we are just sort of dragged through a muddy plotline. Sirena's whole point of living--her quest to find a man to love her-- covers very little of the book, and once she gains immortality, there's really not anywhere else to go. The book covers many years and after a while the chapters just turn into random events that happen to Sirena and her lover. The end is not satisfying, either; perhaps if the book were a little more interesting, I would have been truly sad for our heroine. As it is though, it just lets you down even more. The reader knows that their romance will not be able to work out in the end; love is hard between a mortal man and an immortal mermaid; but the ending is still rather awfully put.
However, I did like the concept or the siren who does not wish to destroy...it gives a new meaning to the "merciless" seductresses. The book is full of Greek mythology, so if you're new to it it may be a little overwhelming, but it is very interesting to learn all of the little stories that you may or may not have heard before.
Overall, I was sort of disappointed with "Sirena," at most I would give it 3 1/2 stars, but it is still an interesting read. Especially if you are into Greek mythology.
on August 19, 2001
I usually regard mythical books and love stories as sappy and stupid. However, I got this book as a recommendation from a friend, read it, and it changed my idea about this genre. I normally go for deep and intertwining, twisting plots -- I used to think that those were the only books that could keep my interest. I admit, I was wrong. Young Sirena captivated me, and involved me in her story.
This book was really good -- at the middle, though, I began to think again that the love story was really lame, but after another chapter or two that all changed. The plot actually had a kind of twist!
Now, the back of the book says that this is for ages 12 & up. I'm 14, and I don't really remember my maturity level at 12, but this book has minor overtones of sexuality and nudity. So, I recommend this very good book to teens ages 14 & up, but if you are a mature 12 or 13-year-old, you should check this out as well. I'm not really sure if it would be appropriate for anyone under that age. Maybe 11, though I'm not sure.
Anyway, this is a really good book, one that fans of all genres can genuinely enjoy.
on September 28, 2006
Personally, I think this book deserves ten stars. If someone were to ask me what my favorite book is, I think I would have to point to this one! Donna Jo Napoli has done an out-of-this-world job. Her writing style is very unique. I believe I saw it described as "sugary" elsewhere, but I can't agree with that. Her imagery is almost surreal in its vividness. You can taste the salt water and hear the cries of their three guardian birds. You can feel in your own chest the wracking sobs of Sirena and her sisters when they inadvertantly cause the death of a ship filled with Greek warriors who - unknown to the young mermaids - don't know how to swim. Napoli's love scenes, while suggestive, aren't crude or overly graphic. They are sweet and tender, and it is obvious how deeply Sirena loves Philoctetes. I also appreciate that Napoli doesn't tell the reader why we should fall in love with Philoctetes, or why we should sympathize with Sirena, she SHOWS it. She makes us feel for this sea maiden. Sirena herself is a heroine such as I have not found in many other novels. She captures the mind with her innocence and her own strong sense of honor and morals. You can't help but love her. She sparkles.
Admittedly, this book is geared more toward girls and women; boys may not have the attention span or interest in a story such as this, as it centers more around love and sacrificing for your partner than on war and fighting. But Sirena does offer a very hopeful message for girls who may be struggling with their personal identity. I found it very comforting and still do. It may be inappropriate for very young children, but when the time comes I will have no hesitation about giving this book to my teenage daughters.
In short, don't listen to the naysayers! Especially if you love Greek mythology, as I do: you will get a great deal more out of this story if you are familiar with the stories that surround it. Napoli very skillfully weaves these legends into Sirena's tale. If you are familiar with the Greek myths, you will have a much greater appreciateion for what it must have taken to create this story. I am now on a mission to find other, similar stories about mermaids, as they are my favorite mythological creature and have a lot of personal significance for me, but I'm sure this one will always have a place of honor on my bookshelf, no matter how full it gets.
on May 8, 2006
Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli was a lovely novel. A mix of romance and adventure. The story starts of on the island Anthemoessa with Sirena and her 11 sisters. Sirena is a mermaid. Unusaully tradgedy strikes in the very beginning of this book, taking with it Sirena's sister Cecilia.
From this chapter everything changes. Sirena begins to disagree with her sisters. She no longer wants to lure men to shore by singing. She remembers what happened last time they wrecked a ship. How the dead bodies of the drownd men where scattered on the shores. She remembers how the survivors called them monsters and unworldly beings. Sirena doesnt want to be a part of this curse as she calls it, any longer.
To escape the "curse" Sirena runs away to a lonely island. Much to her surprise a abandoned man is there. First she avoids him then when he spots her she brings him food and they meet. She eventually falls in love with him and him with her. But this fairy tale romance can't stay forever and Sirena knows it, but she's still going to try.
on July 5, 2000
Donna Jo Napoli performs a tremendous service for those of us who hunger to have myths and fairy tales fleshed out and made human. In SIRENA, she takes what little we know about mermaids and sirens and creates the character of Sirena, a young mermaid on the brink of womanhood, who struggles with who she is. As a consequence, this book held resonances for me of my own teenaged years. The language is lovely. The adult relationship is handled with subtlety and sensitivity. I thought that there were plenty of characters in this book--the two castaways are a world unto themselves, and it is the outside world of humans that intrudes here. Napoli does us a favor by keeping them out of this narrative. I highly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys exploring mythology, as well as anyone looking for a good book to read about a love relationship.
on February 26, 2001
Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli is an enticing book that I basically read 3 hours straight. It is a beautiful story about Greek sirens living on a island. Their dream is to become immortal, but to do so, they must be fallen in love with by a man. To do this, they sing an enchanting song to make the men love them, but the men, instead,crash to their deaths on the rocks. Sirena, the "unique" one, disagrees with her sisters' way of getting guys, so follows her own path. I strongly recommend this book, it was wonderful, and, as I've said, enticing. But, I suggest ages 13 and up.
on December 13, 1999
This book is the best one I have ever read, by far. it is donna jo napoli's best book! it is very discriptive, and there is something very new and interesting i have only seen this author do. she writes from sirena's point of veiw, and in the present. like, in this quote, my favorite in the book. "And oh, i want so much to sing. i tell myself no. but it is so hard to keep silent. so hard." this is also a example of sirena's pureness and you see she has a child-like way of being truthful to herself and her love. i love the ending thogh it may be sad, it is promiseing and sweet. (you gotta read the book, to find out the ending) this wonderful book is the most real and mythicall book i have ever read, it is true and beautiful. once you read it, you will understand.