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The Seas: A Novel Paperback – December 27, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this retelling of "The Little Mermaid," Hunt traps readers in an undertow of tragedy gripping a bleak Northern fishing town. A young woman meets Jude, a sailor whose experiences in Iraq have rendered him watery and insubstantial. Jude becomes both love interest and paternal figure for the girl, whose own father disappeared at sea years before. Convinced she is a mermaid, she believes her love dooms the mortal Jude, but she longs to take him into the ocean with her. The sea's presence is constantly felt in the bleak, isolated town. "There is little else to do here besides get drunk and it seems to make what is small, us, part of something that is drowned and large, something like the bottom of the sea...." Atmospherically, the book resembles Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, but in this story, chances for redemption are rare, and the line between reality and fairy tale is blurred. The girl's grandfather, a typesetter, fills her head with words and definitions, but despite determining to observe everything as a scientific experiment, she cannot find a way to define the wet footprints she finds in odd places, the strange things she sees on the beach and her drowning love for Jude. While Hunt occasionally hammers her themes too hard—in one instance even listing them for us—this book devastates with its lonely, cold imagery.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Hunt's fevered, reality-bending first novel is clearly inspired by the 1811 German novel Undine, about a female water spirit who falls in love with a mortal knight. When he betrays her, she kills him with a kiss. In Hunt's version, Undine is the nameless 19-year-old narrator who is in love with a 33-year-old fisherman, Jude, a former soldier (knight) who has returned to their small town in the far north unable--or unwilling--to speak about his experiences in the military. To extend the Undine analogy, the girl's father--before vanishing into the ocean 11 years earlier--has told her that she is a mermaid, "from the sea," a sentiment that obsesses the girl. Is she? And if so, will she kill her knight with a kiss? Some readers, overburdened by obscure symbols and narrative ambiguity, won't care. Others, however, will enjoy this fusion of fiction and folklore that is illuminated by flashes of quite fine writing. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (December 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312425236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312425234
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,007,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Felicia Sullivan on October 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Reviewed by Patricia D. Weisgerber for Small Spiral Notebook

Imagine that Hans Christian Anderson has finally reached his limit with the various `Disney-fied' adaptations of his story, "The Little Mermaid", and mentions his frustration to Winslow Homer, Charles Dickens and H.P. Lovecraft over drinks up in Heaven. All agree and contribute ideas for a re-write. And perhaps they've funneled their vision through Samantha Hunt, and, thus, her first novel, The Seas, might have been born.

Samantha Hunt writes as if her pen were a sable paintbrush. Though we never know the name of our heroine/protagonist, we see her plainly and vividly, a waif of a soul living in a northern seacoast town where `The highway only goes south from here'. With rocky coastal beaches, frozen water and not much else, a bleak future lies ahead for anyone unfortunate to live there. And while this young woman is aware of her salt-of-the-earth lineage, she has come to believe she's unlike anyone else in the town. She believes she is a mermaid.

The catalyst for this belief is her father's disappearance eleven years before when he walked into the ocean and never came back. While the rest of the town accepts this as suicide, the young woman's mother still waits for her missing husband to return. This, in turn, only strengthens the young woman's conviction. In her mind, she reasons that if her father is alive, then he must be a creature of the sea and, therefore, she must be a mermaid as he had commented many years before.

As with Anderson's mermaid, there is a prince, Jude, only he has been served a fate not unlike a character from a Dicken's tale. A veteran of the Gulf War, he is an alcoholic womanizer who carries a secret that is tearing him apart.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Sleeping in the bathtub on the third floor of the weathered house, where she can see the stars from the window above, a child pressed her ear to the drainpipe so she could hear her parents whispering all night. But one night, her father said, "I remember how the moon shines into the ocean and the pattern it makes on the sea floor" and her mother began to cry. She had never heard her mother cry before. Soon after, her father disappeared into the sea and mother and daughter spend their lives waiting for him to return.

Even as a young woman, the daughter never forgets how her father once told her she was a mermaid, a gift from the sea. Clinging to this small fantasy, the girl spins out a story where she exists in a separate reality, in the blue cocoon of ocean that gave her life.

An integral part of this intricate fantasy, the much older Jude steps out of the sea one day, almost a vision of her father, at least, close enough for an eighteen year old girl longing for his return. She, her mother and grandfather have kept a lonely vigil, waiting year after year for him to come home to them, unable to give up hope. Struggling to emerge from this still life as a mermaid, into a more functional reality, the young woman is beset on all sides by the presence and power of the sea, as it offers imprisonment or release. Propelled into her own future, the girl is at a critical impasse, brought about by her intense need for Jude to be all things, lover, father, savior, failure.

The author has a remarkable talent for description, drawing the reader into her images, such as the strange sounds of the deaf world, the inner workings of a lonely woman's heart and the incandescence of hope on the horizon. Hunt spills words like breadcrumbs through the forest... impossible not to follow.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"The Seas'" narrator is nineteen, a waif-like girl who, unable to move from adolescence to womanhood, believes herself to be a mermaid. When she was eight years-old, her father walked into the sea, never to be seen again. She and her mother often sit on the beach, near the ocean's edge where his footprints were last seen, watching - waiting for him to return. Wet footprints appear to her in the oddest places, convincing her that he has come back. He had told her that she was a mermaid - a gift from the sea. After all these years, she still believes him and reasons that if her father is alive, then he must be a creature of the sea and that she, his daughter, must be the same. And like the mermaids in Hans Christian Andersen's tale, and Friedrich de La Motte Fouque's "Undine," our lost young protagonist loves a man and longs for him to return her intense affections. Unlike the fairy tales, however, one assumes she is not dependent on this man's love to gain a mortal soul.

Jude, the man in question, is older, nearly twice her age. He returned from the Iraq War terribly changed, war-torn. After serving three years and seven months in the Army, he had decided to stay at the front a bit longer. He needed the money. He was finally evacuated for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and shipped back to the States. The bleak, Northeastern seaside town where they live has nothing to offer him, nor anyone else really. He doesn't own a fishing boat, which is the only way to make money in the tiny hamlet. Our mermaid is certain that Jude, now a hard drinking, womanizing sailor, is her prince. Jude, however, has problems of his own. Never having fully recovered from the traumas of battle, he believes the young woman is forbidden to him. She is like a critical war secret he has been prohibited to reveal.
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