#20BooksOfSummer 15- Ingo by Helen Dunmore

#20BooksOfSummer is an annual event hosted by Cathy Brown of 746 Books and runs from 3rd June until 3rd September With the aim to clearing a target of 5, 10 or 20 books from your TBR but with very relaxed and fun rules.

Here is my joining post & List!

Bookcover for 2012 edition of Ingo
2012 edition Photography Elena Kalis Shutterstock & decorative illustrations by Eliz Huseyin

This underwater tale is the second oldest book in my #20BooksOfSummer, it was originally published back in 2006 and I am surprised at how incredibly fresh it is and how it fits right in with so many other books I’ve read recently. Seriously, the only thing that betrays it’s age is that there is no mention of plastic pollution otherwise this could stand as a fantastic recent publication- it’s almost like this book was the promise of what was coming in a golden age of children’s literature.

Helen Dunmore had a wonderful talent for poetic lyrical prose yet her narrative was undoubtably flavoured with the perspective and frustrations of our eleven year old protagonist and that really was a beautiful gift reimagining the Cornish legend of the Mermaid Of Zennor crossed with the myth of selkies.

Under the Sea
Siren Call
Come away

One Midsummer, Mathew Trewhella went out on his boat and was never seen again, whispers abound about whether he drowned, ran off with another woman or more curiously succumbed to the same fate as his historical namesake and went into the sea after the love of a mermaid.

A year, a month and a day later Sapphy is convinced her dad is still alive. Even through the fights and her mother’s new romance she clings to the feeling in her bones that he did not die.

Her brother Conor has been spending a lot of time down at the secret cove, so much time it seems he has lost all sense of it, and when Sapphy discovers just what has taken his time she soon feels the call of Ingo and the sense of home under the water, and the maddening craving to return….

I hear it again. A sweet sound, sweet but sharp, like a knife that can cut deep inside you. It’s like the sound I heard in the mirror but this time it’s shaping itself into words… I wish I was away in Ingo…

Wow. This is a really intense study of loss and grief within a frame of not knowing, the sense of a family being paused in time, and yet it rushing ever forward in dull routine. The pain of wishing for the father returning versus the pain of accepting and moving on.

This temporal displacement is a theme throughout the novel as much like the sense of time in faery kingdoms, under the sea or in Ingo time moves differently, occasionally keeping beat with land, and sometimes a few minutes being several hours- this dizzy headyness adds to the sense of confusion and inner turmoil throughout.

The beautiful evocation of life under the sea with currents and symbiosis with sea mammals and creatures is inspiring and really pulls you under and away with the story. The reader easily falls into flow imagining being beside Sapphy whether within or longing for Ingo.

It doesn’t seem strange anymore or dangerous. Everything has a familiar feeling about it as if part of me has always lived here.

Sapphy and Connor’s ability to move between the worlds (albeit differing abilities) explores a sort of Merfolk legend of mer-blood being in those who love the sea, Sapphy’s mer friend Faro makes hints of an interconnectedness that is exciting to ponder upon.

But there is always this darker sense of merfolk over mermaids like faery over Fairy. Despite the childlike way Sapphy sets her mother and Roger up as the ‘bad guys’ for not holding faith her father will return, there is a quiet malice to the interactions with Faro seemingly turning on a knife’s blade of slip of the tongues or the wrong question changing the face into something dangerous beneath the surface. Sapphy and to a lesser extent Connor are beguiled and enchanted by the mer and it seems in a way like tales of people stolen away by faeries or indeed the childlike adoration for Peter Pan whom as adults we begin to consider the horrific concept of Lost Boys and children stolen from their nurseries as playmates for a narcissistic spirit who refuses to grow up.

Granny Carne catches me looking at her. The faintest smile crosses her face. Suddenly I feel a flicker of hope and courage in the dark sadness of the church.

There’s also an earthy magic beating throughout through the workings of Granny Carne. Traditional folksy magic of talking to the bees and shadowwalking Granny Carne has more than a flavour of Granny Weatherwax and her ‘borrowing’ but that’s beautiful to see her in a serious setting.

Whilst this is pretty much ok as a stand-alone, there is enough seeding the path to mean I’m enchanted enough to take a dive back into Ingo.

If you’re looking for a merfolk story with bite and flavours of Faeries rather than Flounder and gushing over handsome Princes then this is certainly a myth-driven folksy series to enchant.

The Chronicles Of Ingo: Ingo by Helen Dunmore is published by Harper Collins


8 thoughts on “#20BooksOfSummer 15- Ingo by Helen Dunmore

    1. I don’t know I hope you would like it, there’s certainly flavours of Michelle Harrison and Kiran Millwood Hargrave in the writing style.
      But there’s also a lack of urgency which I find quite compelling, it’s luxuriating in the sense of pulling and craving to return and belong rather than a quest- it’s very different in that regards.
      It leaves things up in the air but also has growth across the book. I enjoyed it but wanted to know more especially about the mer boy’s secrets and hints about the dad it was like a fan dance revealing just a bit more each time then pulling away.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ooh, yeah, I think I’ll give it a go. I like a slow pace/lack of action if it’s delivering in style/build up/setting etc.
      It sounds like a good start to the series.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. It’s not an urgent read, after all they are old books!! But definitely one to read for me because of the style and magical feel to them that’s darker and more mythical than sparkles and rainbows mermaids

      Liked by 1 person

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