Review: The Luminous Sea by Melissa Barbeau

A team of researchers from a nearby university have set up a research station in a fictional outport in Newfoundland, studying the strange emergence of phosphorescent tides. And Vivienne, a young assistant, accidentally captures a creature unknown to science: a kind of fish, both sentient and distinctly female. As the project supervisor and lead researcher attempt to exploit the discovery, the creature begins to waste away, and Vivian must endanger herself to save them both.

Before we go any further, I really want to shout out that this cover is SPECTACULAR! I was in a shop in Downtown St. John’s when I saw it and I immediately knew that I had to have it. There is something to be said about judging a book by it’s cover, especially when it’s pretty and a NL author to boot.

This book meant a lot to me. First of all, as someone who is from Newfoundland, I loved the mystery and mythical nature that it brought to the province. The idea that outport Newfoundland is home to mermaids? Secretive sea creatures? Mythical beings? I absolutely love it, and it doesn’t feel that far fetched. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of sitting in a boat in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of outport NL, but there is something about it that just feels a little surreal. You have no idea what is beneath those waves, and for all we know there is a little bit of magic there. So yeah, loved the premise!

I also really connected to it on the level of being a science undergrad who has gone through the experience of working in a lab and in a kind of uncomfortable situation. It sucks, and it can really flavour the work environment, and unfortunately it’s super common. So for Barbeau to acknowledge that and how toxic workplaces can become (especially when the people you think will support you don’t) really brings to the forefront an important issue that a lot of women face.

There were some elements of the book that I in general dislike. The common trope of a cheating husband felt rather unnecessary (when is it ever necessary) and so that kind of turned things a little sour for me. I also didn’t love that the book just ended so abruptly – it would have been nice to see people get justice for what they did. But overall, the fact that this little outport was portrayed as mythical and sturdy in so many ways really made up for the novel’s small shortcomings.

Overall I would give this novel 4/5, and I look forward to including more NL authors like Barbeau in my to read pile like 🙂

See you again soon ducks!
~ Mon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s