Napoli, Donna Jo. Sirena (2000). 210 Pages. Scholastic. $4.99
As Greece gathers their troops to go to war with Troy, the mermaids of the Mediterranean Sea sing their siren-songs to attract men. Sirena is one of these mermaids, doomed to the death of a mortal unless she can “love”* a man. While the other mermaids thoughtlessly lure men to their deaths, Sirena sees the inherent flaws; they kill many men, they are hated, and they are costing lives for the sake of their own.
After an especially brutal scene where men beat a mermaid to death- and bash in her head and ribcage- and scream at the “whores” before they die, Sirena realizes that something might be wrong about this situation. (Gee, ya think?) She ventures out on her own- which is strange, because mermaids are social creatures – since none of the others seem to care that they are murderers.
She finds herself sharing an island with a man** who has been abandoned by his comrades. Of course, we can all see where this is going; she takes care of him, keeps him alive, and eventually gains her immortality through him. The two are “married”, and live in a strange sort of harmony. He spends his time on land, exploring the deserted island, missing humanity. She spends her time in the sea, dreaming about a different future.
Eventually, Sirena must make an important decision, one which will change both of their lives forever.
The story overlaps with The Illiad, a story which I love. The setting is also pretty good- the Mediterranean is a great backdrop for a fantastic*** tale. However, I am frustrated by the volume of mythology- it seems overwhelming at times- and how it sometimes seems forced. I dislike the point of view- first person present- and do not feel that it helps the story, third person limited would have been more comfortable to read.
The Quick Version:
I feel like this story would have sat better with me if the ending had been different. I like happy endings, or at least the sort where it’s clear that they will eventually be happy. This is not one of those endings. Occasionally, I feel like I’m drowning in mythology, and I’ve got a pretty solid grip on it. It gets roughly a 2.5 out of 5, because I’m a stickler for endings- they are the part which sticks with you the most, after all.
*By “love”, this book really means to have sex with. And when they have sex, it is vague- how do a man and a fish copulate?
** Philoctetes, for those of you who are mythology-savvy.
*** In the sense of “fantasy-like” rather than “very good”