Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull

Day 12  and in fiction: by Rebecca Mascull.

In the 18th century, Dawnay Price is an anomaly. An educated foundling, a woman of science in a time when such things are unheard-of, she overcomes her origins to become a natural philosopher.

Against the conventions of the day, and to the alarm of her male contemporaries, she sets sail to Portugal to develop her theories. There she makes some startling discoveries – not only in an ancient cave whose secrets hint at a previously undiscovered civilisation, but also in her own heart. The siren call of science is powerful, but as war approaches she finds herself pulled in another direction by feelings she cannot control.

Written from Dawnay’s viewpoint, the book opens onto eighteenth century life in London. We witness the terrible poverty and the way orphans, and women were treated. Ultimately though, this is a feel-good novel that re-writes the terrible history of the nameless, homeless orphan. This is ‘the age of sail, orphanages, the flora and fauna of islands, and even the origins of all humankind’.

In many ways this novel is the true definition of the ‘What if’ scenario. What if a poor female orphan was given an opportunity to become educated. Not to become a servant in a house, to clean fire grates, to polish, to cook or clean but a real opportunity to study, to learn, to understand the world to be taken in by a kind and caring person without being abused. Song of the Sea Maid, is the orphan what if narrative.

 

Song of the Sea Maid is published by Hodder

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