Van has finished reading…Song Of The Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull

10 Feb

Dawnay Price is a woman out of her time (it would be nice to say she’s a woman ahead of her time but that would be to suggest there are no longer women in the world who are denied opportunity because they are women). Separated from the only family she’s known at a tender age, she is cast on the mercy of an orphanage where she is expected to learn a woman’s skills, and her place. But this will not satisfy her. She is determined and resourceful. She knows her mind and wants not simply to use it but to expand it. Afforded education, Dawnay grows determined to carve out a place for herself in this man’s world.

But how much there is to discover, not least the things beyond her power to control.

If I were to choose one word to summarise what I liked most about Rebecca Mascull’s Song of the Sea Maid it would be delicacy. There’s something light and loose about the writing that disguises the seriousness of her subject. It’s subtle. What I really want to talk about is how good the ending is. I don’t want to spoil it for you, don’t want to give anything away, but it’s a beautiful inversion (I think that’s oblique enough). It’s a well-struck bell that rings out and finds natural resonance in the objects that surround it. There’s a delightful subtlety at play throughout this vibrantly feminist novel. Consider the isolated populations Dawnay is drawn to study. Consider how myth laps at the edges of reason. Consider Dawnay herself, determined, headstrong and sometimes a little too quick to the defensive for her own good – yet how close she sails to the truth of things.

Though it is really all about Dawnay the supporting cast are well drawn and true to their habits and station. It’s interesting to note how fixed many of these characters are. We’re often encouraged as writers to ensure there’s always a journey for each character to go on, a process of change to undertake. How wrong it would have been to see such wholesale makeover in this book where gender, social standing and state of mind so rigidly govern life. And where there is stasis it serves to underline the boundaries over which Dawnay is prepared to stride.

It may seem like a strange title on first impression but actually it’s working overtime, what drives Dawnay reflected as well as casting her in the Siren’s role. Of course Dawnay is an invention but you don’t have to look far to find women of science who were laughed at for their theories, in some cases only to have them appropriated and re-presented, even outright stolen by men. And you don’t have to look as far back as the 1700’s either (look at Celia Payne in the 20th century, or Nettie Stevens in the 19th). It’s got to make you wonder how many Dawnays there are whose true names and achievements should be known to us.


At its heart Rebecca Mascull’s Song Of The Sea Maid is immersive historical fiction, an enthralling coming-of-age tale. It’s also a banner waving for feminists everywhere. Whatever your field of endeavour, celebrate the discoveries of those whose voices might otherwise go unheard.

Song Of The Sea Maid was published in paperback by Hodder on 11 February 2016 ISBN:9781473604377

You can find Rebecca on twitter @RebeccaMascull

With thanks to BookBridgr and Hodder for allowing me to review this book.


6 Responses to “Van has finished reading…Song Of The Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull”

  1. Claire 'Word by Word' 10/02/2016 at 8:49 pm #

    Love the sound of this book, must keep an eye out for it. Enchanting.

    • vanisreading 11/02/2016 at 7:15 am #

      It really is! And published in paperback today.


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