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Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson Hardcover – October 2, 2012
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*Starred Review* Siegel has drawn both a graphic novel (To Dance, 2006, by his wife, Siena Cherson Siegel) and his own picture books (Moving House, 2011), but in this spellbinding work his art takes both a giant step forward and a drifting look back. Rendered entirely in charcoal pencil, the panels evoke both the misty haze of river water and a foggy cloud of memory, as Captain Twain recounts an episode aboard the Lorelei, a luxury steamboat on the mighty Hudson River in 1887. Life on board has Twain suspended between tending the ship and its needy passengers and barely tolerating the French cad who owns the liner and uses it as grazing ground for his sexual exploits—until the night he finds a harpoon-pierced mermaid clawing her way aboard. As he secretly nurses her back to health in his cabin, Twain falls under a many-layered siren song of physical desire, creative inspiration, and emotional severance from his life on land and ailing wife at home. Siegel’s novel of obsessive romance and mythological realism churns through deep pools of humor, passion, and darkness. Studied panoramas of the intricate working of steamboats will steal away whatever breath you have left over from the mermaid’s beauty and the story’s outright tension as it steers toward a complex, catastrophic climax. Though serialized online, this is a luxurious graphic novel in its print form and is absolutely not to be missed. --Ian Chipman
“This extraordinary work of fiction pushes the graphic novel well beyond its previous limits. The narrative takes us on many journeys through space and time, but is more than a mere tale. It's about past and present, the absolute importance of myth, of language, of stories themselves. In superb words and drawings, it also explores obsession and love in a way that is original to the genre, and to literature itself. In the best sense, the completed work succeeds in a very difficult task: making the reader more human. Bravo!” ―Pete Hamill
“Addictive.” ―Rachel Maddow
“Wow. Fabulous.” ―Robin McKinley
“A gorgeous piece of work about moral conflicts, romantic distress, and fishy secrets.” ―Laura Kipnis
“A romance in the truest sense of the word, Sailor Twain is a marvel of graphical beauty and complex, intelligent storytelling. Siegel creates a misty, magical Hudson river that is somehow realer and truer and more seductive and many fathoms deeper than the real thing.” ―Lev Grossman
“I had a most engaging voyage on the doomed Lorelei, and I much enjoyed meeting young Captain Twain -- not to mention the mermaid in the Hudson. This is a gripping novel with compelling characters, enhanced by haunting, erotically charged drawings.” ―John Irving
“Siegel's illustrations underscore the multiple themes of deceit and deception: softly blurred charcoal riverscapes transform the Hudson into a proving ground for dark magic, and the doe-eyed characters are nowhere near as innocent as they look. You're never too old for a well-told fairy tale.” ―BCCB
“Absolutely not to be missed.” ―Booklist, starred review
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Top Customer Reviews
Phenomenal! One of my favourite graphic novels of the year. This is a haunting, gothic story set in Victorian era New York, or to be more exact on a steamer upon the Hudson River. From the beginning prologue, the book is surrounded in mystery. The fog that fills the graphic panels also hovers heavily over the plot. Atmosphereic only begins to describe the aura one feels reading this book and I'll say that it didn't take me long before I forgot I was reading a graphic novel, per se. I was totally invested in these characters and the story was compelling, a real treat for someone looking for a spooky ghost story that involves much more than ghosts. On top of that the book examines love in its varied forms, how can one truly hang on to it, is temptation always too much to handle or can a certain kind of love stand against it. I was mezmorized while reading Sailor Twain and will be keeping this for a second read later down the line.
Be forewarned though that this is an adult book with frontal n*udity of both s*xes, and has s*x scenes. I thought they were represented very tastefully, just not something I would hand to anyone without knowing where their limits lay in that direction. Also there is cursing, including multiple use of the F-word.
Sailor Twain. That name just conjures up so many different memories if you're familiar with literature and Mark Twain. And while this story doesn't have Mark Twain in it (it doesn't reference him though) it does capture that essence of the river and its denizens. The characters are captivating and from that very first page you want to know what happens to them, what made them be the way they are, especially Lafayette, the French nobleman. And the situations the characters are placed in feel real, they make you wonder what you would do in a similar situation. Would you be able to avoid the temptation of the mermaid's call?
The thing I love most about this book is the sheer amount of research and historical content that Mark adds to the story. Dropping in names, characters, and places from the real world to create a fantastic and jaw dropping tale. FirstSecond is one of my favorite publishers, in part because they've been taking chances on the stories they tell and how they deliver these stories to the world. Lately they've taken to serialize some of the comics online--such as Tune, Friends With Boys, and this one--which gives readers a chance to build a community around the work, which ties into my favorite part of the historical context of the story given just how much is shared by Mark and the community at large. I love the fact that he shares in the blog what influenced him while creating this work, as well as sharing images and articles that fans dug up. I could see this being a great a book to use in a history class to help reluctant students see history come to life. Ok yes the teacher would have to explain the mermaid but still...even that was a part of lore during the time period. I wish that the printed book could capture all of the blog posts and the community built around this story. Hopefully once the book is printed the posts and comments will remain because they offer such great additional material.
I absolutely love Mark's illustrations. The smoky charcoal quality adds an air of mystery and suspense to the story. It makes it feel like we're really reading about something that happened on the banks of the Hudson a 100 years ago and I feel like I can hear the river lapping against the shore and the sound of the boats upon the river. And that's a feeling that I love. Mark's style reminds me of one of my other favorite FirstSecond works, Three Shadows. Although Three Shadows, charcoal lines are much more fluid and dynamic on the page, Mark captures some of that same intensity within the way his characters move and float on the page. The one thing that caught me a bit off guard with the print book vs the webbased comic is the paper choice. In the webbased version you can see that Mark choose a stark white paper to sketch upon, which adds an interesting dynamic to the story with the stark white vs. the stark black. The printed version is more of a cream color, which helps age the story and adds a different dimension to it, almost as if we're reading the diary of Captain Twain from a 100 years ago. I'm a little bit more partial to the webbased version paper, but for those that are just encountering the story for the first time the print version makes it feel like we're really diving into history. ***It should be noted that Mark draws the mermaid in her natural state, ie topless (I mean seriously what self respecting mermaid would war clothes?) Just in case you don't like that sort of thing.***
While the story stands alone, I recommend that readers also go and take a look at the blog and the community built there for some great extra material. This is great addition to any collection and I highly recommend it. I give the book 5 out of 5 stars.
PG rating - Nudity and references to sex
"One hundred years ago, on the foggy Hudson River,a riverboat captain rescues an injured mermaid from the waters of the busiest port in the United States. A wildly popular--and notoriously reclusive--author makes a public debut. A French nobleman seeks a remedy for a curse. As three lives twine together in an unexpected collision, the mystery of the Mermaid of the Hudson deepens...."
That the author/illustrator was both the Editorial Director of First Second and had award-winning books in his repertoire only added to my interest.
A copy of the book arrived here soon after, courtesy of friends at Tor. I read it in one day, though the book has more depth than most graphic novels do. That depth is in both the story and the luminous quality of much of the graphics that carry the tale. There were some remarkable moments, in both story and art, between the covers of this book. The drawings are not in color, which in this case is a good thing. It helps keep the art clear, avoiding a muddy nature which can come into some graphic novels. In fact, in this book, the black-white-gray almost charcoal feel of some of the panels helps create an ethereal quality to some parts of the story that slip more into the realm of fantasy and eroticism than fiction. I also really enjoyed the maps and article bits that made up the chapter pages.
One more thing which I really liked about this book was that the publishers chose to make this book hardcover, which gave it a different feel in the hand when reading -- sort of like the good mouth-feel of an excellent wine or coffee versus what you get from the chain down the street.
Thank you Tor and First Second for giving me such an enjoyable mind voyage down the Hudson and then some.
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