Brighton Beach, 1993
Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.
Twenty-five years on, Nell is forced to quit her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.
But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…
I’m writing this review from a very interesting place today, because I have just come away from a weekend spent at the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference in Lancaster where one of the highlights of the weekend for me was listening to Dorothy Koomson in conversation about her writing with RNA Chair, Alison May.
I have been in love with Dorothy Koomson’s writing since the very first book of hers that I picked up more than ten years ago. That book was Goodnight, Beautiful and it has remained very special to me because, not only was it a book I loved as a reader, but it is one of the books that has influenced me very deeply as a writer. The way I felt whilst reading this book is the way I want to make people feel when I write.
Dorothy’s writing has moved on a great deal since that book and she is one of the few authors writing who has managed to change genres very successfully. In fact, she has done this more than once, and it was fascinating to hear her talk about the resistance she had to these changes from others involved in her career and the absolute conviction in her own writing that has carried her through. It is this passion, this conviction, that comes through so clearly in her writing and carries we, the reader, along with her wherever she chooses to take us. I, for one, am always happy to follow and never regret the journey.
The Brighton Mermaid is no exception, it was an outstanding read for me. I finished it just before the conference, and was fascinated to hear some of the stories behind the writing of this book afterwards, which would never have been apparent from the finished product. Dorothy joked that she has invented a new genre, the emotional thriller, and this label definitely sums up the journey in this novel. It is quite unlike anything that anyone else is writing and I really felt that I were reading something new and interesting, that made me think and feel differently to anything else I had read when I had finished it.
The book follows the story of Nell, who has an experience in her teenage years that has a deep and lasting effect on her and all of the people who are close to her. A simple act on one night ripples through her family and friends and changes all of their lives forever. Nell is haunted by the experience and is still searching for answers when we catch up with her in her thirties in the present day. Her sister has also been impacted in a way that has left her with mental health issues and her parents lives were turned upside down. Her best friend disappeared and has left a question hanging over them all which has never been answered. Nell’s pursuit of the truth and a resolution to all their difficulties draws us in and holds us captive to the very last page.
This is not a traditional detective story or psychological thriller but a fascinating blend of the two, with a complex layer of emotional truth woven through it that asks more questions than it answers. Despite the fact that this is a very different book than the first Dorothy Koomson I fell in love with all those years ago, I was left with many of the same feelings by the end: riveted, moved, challenged and, ultimately, blown away by the skill of the author. This book could not have been written by anyone other than Dorothy Koomson and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I’m looking forward to reading the next one, and I have a copy of this which I will cherish.
About the Author
Dorothy Koomson is the award-winning author of 14 novels and has been making up stories since she was 13 when she used to share her stories with her convent school friends. Her published titles include: The Friend, When I Was Invisible, That Girl From Nowhere, The Flavours of Love, The Woman He Loved Before, Goodnight, Beautiful and The Chocolate Run.
Dorothy’s first novel, The Cupid Effect, was published in 2003 (when she was quite a bit older than 13). Her third book, My Best Friend’s Girl, was selected for the Richard & Judy Summer Reads of 2006 and went on to sell over 500,000 copies. While her fourth novel, Marshmallows For Breakfast, has sold in excess of 250,000 copies. Dorothy’s books, The Ice Cream Girls and The Rose Petal Beach were both shortlisted for the popular fiction category of the British Book Awards in 2010 and 2013, respectively.
Dorothy’s novels have been translated into over 30 languages, and a TV adaptation loosely based on The Ice Cream Girls was shown on ITV1 in 2013. After briefly living in Australia, Dorothy now lives in Brighton.
Connect with Dorothy:
Facebook: Dorothy Koomson Writer