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Cambridge University Library

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The Really Popular Book Club is the reading group hosted by Cambridge University Libraries. Everyone is invited to join us and our special guests to discuss a really popular book, one that we all know and perhaps or perhaps not love.

Join us for this club meeting where we will discuss Monique Roffey’s 2020 Costa Novel Award-winning The Mermaid of Black Conch. Set on the titular, fictional Caribbean island of Black Conch, the novel explores the legacies of Caribbean colonisation, neocolonialism and emancipation through two intertwined love stories: of the exiled mermaid Aycayia and the fisherman, David Baptiste, who finds her; and of Arcadia Rain, descendent of slaveowners, and her Afro-Caribbean lover, Life. Magic, multiple betrayals, and expected, and unexpected transformations punctuate this story of the past that seeks to read the future.

Our special guest for the evening will be Dr Malachi McIntosh, Editor and Publishing Director of Wasafiri, the magazine of international contemporary writing, and a specialist in post-war Caribbean literature.

About the book, Malachi says: ‘It’s a book about what was and what could be — one that, implicitly, like many novels from the Caribbean, considers how it might be possible for all of us — in all our difference — to live together in the wake of past traumas.’

As well as hearing from Malachi about his thoughts and observations on the novel, we will open the floor to you, our club members, to share your own thoughts and observations. To get you thinking and to help prepare any comments or questions you might want to share, we have prepared three starter questions:

1. David Baptiste, Life, Arcadia Rain, Aycayia: who is the novel’s main character? 

2. The politics of sex and gender are front and centre in the story. What does the novel seem to be saying about relationships between men and women, women and women, men and men?

3. ‘History or love. One must win. I cannot fight history.’ How does the novel portray post-colonial battles with ‘history’? What is its model of reconciliation?

Before attending the event, we suggest you take a look at our FAQs. These can be found here.

Where: Online via Zoom Meetings

Registration: Required, free: REGISTER HERE

Date: Thursday 26 August 2021