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Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson Hardcover – October 2, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: First Second (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596436360
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596436367
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #827,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Reason for Reading: Set in the 1880s, I wasn't about to pass this one by as it sounded just to my tastes.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
One hundred years ago a steamboat traveled along the Hudson River, captained by a man named Twain. One dark rainy evening Captain Twain rescues an injured mermaid, carried her back to his cabin and began nursing her back to health. And from that one act of kindness a terrible event is set in motion, that will shape the lives and destiny of all involved--the captain, a French nobleman named Lafayette, and a reclusive author named C.G. Beaverton with a secret. For the mermaid has a secret and a curse...and she seeks to ensnare anyone that she can to help her. There's only one proven method for breaking the mermaid's curse. How many will fall prey to her powers? And how many will come out whole in the end?

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.
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Format: Hardcover
A few months back I was perusing Tor's fall 2012 offerings and the blurb on a graphic novel coming out through an imprint called First Second Books caught my eye:
"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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read the first few chapters in the sailortwain.com website and I was hooked. I thoroughly anticipated receiving this book so I can finally continue with my adventure. I guess the book itself is my siren's song! The book gets a full 5 stars for that alone.

The artwork is something I'm not very used to, but I found the style enjoyable and fitting for the story. I can't imagine this book without the charcoal adding to the mood. I was delighted to find the watery sea themes found everywhere, even the less obvious places. Scales are all over the women's outfits, as are other nautical motifs, further accentuating the overall charm and a haunting theme. Though I am surprised at the complaints about the style being too off-putting for the mood. Maybe the best way to approach this is with a more open mind in order to appreciate the artwork as a device for the story, and not to stack this against other comic styles. Capt. Twain may look like a muppet but I think I should remind everyone that TinTin also had a face like a snowman. I considered lending this book to my preteen brother, but I was a bit worried about the mild sexual content. For an adult, this is hardly shocking, but for a young adult, the content may be impressionable.

As for the story, I devoured the plot of this book so fast, I might've bit off my own hand at the end. What I liked about the story was the theme of "completeness" in many layers that can be extremely ambiguous. I don't want to say it's purely the old love vs. lust argument. It's more than that to me beginning with the obvious fact that mermaids are half human and half fish. And the main character with the blank face, as if he is just a shell of a person, not completely whole.
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