17 March 2014

Review: Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel

Sailor Twain by Mark SiegelFirst Second is quickly becoming one of my go-to imprints for thoughtful adult graphic novels. This month they released the paperback edition of Mark Siegel's Sailor Twain, Or The Mermaid in the Hudson, which was the recipient of a number of starred reviews and other critical acclaim when it was first published in 2012.

Siegel brings together such an intriguing a mix of genres and themes in Sailor Twain that I'm recommending it as a book club selection. If you're still new to graphic novels and are looking for something outside the realm of dime-store comic books, Sailor Twain is a good place to start, especially if you're a fan of stories with a little bit of mystery.

  • Summary. In May 1887, Captain Twain, a self-professed happily married man, brings a wounded mermaid aboard his Hudson River steamboat. Hiding her in his cabin, he begins to fall under her spell during her convalescence. Meanwhile, the ship's owner, Lafayette, refuses to leave the ship, dividing his time between seducing women and writing to author C. G. Beaverton, well-known for publishing folklore stories about mysterious events reported to have taken place along the Hudson. What will happen when the paths of these three characters cross?
  • Genres and themes. Sailor Twain is historical fiction mixed with folklore, adventure, and a little romance. The story is not so much a mystery as a puzzle: How are the characters connected and what is the truth behind the unexplained events that Beaverton writes about? The major themes of the novel are love, relationships, and marriage; interpretations of faith and creation; morality; the interpretation of mythology, folklore, and local legends.
  • copyright Mark Siegel
  • Artwork. Siegel's charcoal drawings have a soft and dark feel that fit the mystery of the story. Many pages have little or no words, yet the story is fully told through the expressive faces and careful details. The scan is from page 107 (click image to enlarge; all rights remain with the author).
  • General thoughts. I was quickly pulled into the world of Sailor Twain, which is set up as a frame story and told in retrospect. The characters' changing behavior and the clues (found on the ship and on land and in newspaper articles, books, and letters) are teasing and kept me guessing. If I have a complaint, it's that the ending happened rather quickly for such a carefully paced buildup. Regardless, I'm still recommending Mark Siegel's Sailor Twain.
Published by Roaring Brook Press /First Second, 2014
ISBN-13: 9781596439269
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


bermudaonion 3/17/14, 10:26 AM  

Sounds like a fun graphic novel!

(Diane) bookchickdi 3/17/14, 10:47 AM  

I don't read many graphic novels, but this one sure intrigues me.

Daryl 3/17/14, 12:08 PM  

i just might need to break down and buy it in hand-hold version

Vasilly 3/17/14, 8:31 PM  

You are so right. First Second is becoming one of the go-to publishers of comics. Sailor Twain is such a good and surprising read.

Anonymous,  3/17/14, 9:04 PM  

I have this on my to-review stack - and now I can't wait to get to it.

SuziQoregon 3/18/14, 1:23 PM  

I think I need to find this one.

Leslie @ This is the Refrain 3/29/14, 3:29 PM  

I didn't love this one, though I could never really put my finger on why. That being said, though, I do love First Second and almost everything they do. I'm always on their site to see what's coming out soon.

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