The Seas: A Novel

by Samantha Hunt

Paperback, 2005

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

Picador (2005), 208 pages

Description

Moored in a coastal fishing town so far north that the highways only run south, the unnamed narrator of The Seas is a misfit. She's often the subject of cruel local gossip. Her father, a sailor, walked into the ocean eleven years earlier and never returned, leaving his wife and daughter to keep a forlorn vigil. Surrounded by water and beckoned by the sea, she clings to what her father once told her: that she is a mermaid.True to myth, she finds herself in hard love with a land-bound man, an Iraq War veteran thirteen years her senior.The mesmerizing, fevered coming-of-age tale that follows will land her in jail. Her otherworldly escape will become the stuff of legend. With the inventive brilliance and psychological insight that have earned her international acclaim, Samantha Hunt pulls readers into an undertow of impossible love and intoxication, blurring the lines between reality and fairy tale, hope and delusion, sanity and madness.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member jasonlf
The Seas was an extraordinary novel by Samantha Hunt. It is told in the first person by a 19 year-old woman living in an unnamed small, northern seaside town with only one road leaving it (to the South, the road does not continue north). We are told the town has the highest rate of alcoholism in the country and it appears to be up there in suicide, accidental death, depression, insanity and cruelty as well.

The lyrical and spellbinding story is narrated by a 19 year-old girl (she does not seem anything like a woman) whose father drowned himself 11 years earlier and who thinks that he is still alive in the sea and that she is a mermaid. The novel is amazingly inventive with whimsical wordplay and imagination from beginning to end, telling the story of the girl's increasingly precipitous descent into her own world as she pursues a relationship with an emotionally damaged older man who returned from the war in Iraq.

Ultimately as much as one wants to believe that her father still loves her, that the older man knowingly sacrificed himself for her, that the blue lights following her car as it speeds along are the ocean and not the police, Hunt makes it nearly impossible and it is hard to escape the tragic conclusion that this is a sympathetic portrait of a wonderfully inventive but ultimately deeply depressing insanity, not a beautiful fantasy of a girl who is protected by her merman father who lives an enchanted life in otherwise dreary surroundings.

Samantha Hunt also wrote The Invention of Everything Else, a fictionalized account of the last days of Tesla as he befriends a chambermaid, which is also a window into madness and very highly recommended. Looking forward to more books by her.
… (more)
LibraryThing member mrstreme
In Samantha Hunt's debut novel, The Seas, we meet a lovely, yet delusional, 19-year-old girl who believes she is a mermaid. Her father told her so, shortly before he walked into the sea and never returned. Clinging to this belief, our narrator takes us on a lyrical ride that shows how tough our world is on mermaids.

A major theme in The Seas is unrequited love. For example, our narrator is in love with Jude, a Gulf War veteran who was 13 years older than her. Jude would hang out with her, protect her at times, but never date her. Jude was emotionally scarred, and he drank heavily and screwed around to hide his issues. The narrator's mom also was caught up in unrequited love. She finally met the man of her dreams, married and bore his child, before he took a walk into the water, Virginia Woolfe-style. The tiny glimpses of their marriage showed us their uneven romance, which lived on long after the dad's disappearance.

The Seas is not your ordinary little book. It's humorous, enchanting, troubling and depressing. While the narrator's delusions of being a mermaid were quaint, at the same time, you wish someone would help her. While you knew Jude was bad news, you hoped he would pay attention to the narrator. This tumbling combination of feelings makes The Seas as quirky and wonderful as its characters.

The best way to make a recommendation would be this: if you liked Little Miss Sunshine, then you will probably like The Seas. Just like the movie, this book won't be for everyone.
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LibraryThing member lola_leviathan
Some notes while reading

1. I was drawn to this book because I liked Hunt's contribution to Tin House's Fantastic Women issue, a short story entitled "Beast." I spent the first hundred pages of The Seas wishing she had stuck to the shorter format--it is repetitive in a way that is not especially lyrical or insightful but just gives the feeling that she didn't have enough ideas for sustained novel. But then she threw in the story about the narrator being furniture for a ship's captain. And Jude's confession about his time in Iraq and the wolf-boy and the ziggurat. A ziggurat! And then Jude melted! Fuck yeah! I hope these meatier images and anecdotes will coalesce in some beautiful way.

2. Isn't it just the height of preciousness to make all these allusion to Language and its Importance but never really go anywhere with them? Oh, her mother grew up on an island full of deaf people, and her grandfather is a typesetter. Well, fabulous. Maybe I just need to pay more Attention so I can Understand Better. I do enjoy all the visceral images of ears in the book, notably when the mother tries to catch deafness by pressing her ear to her friend's, and when the heroine finally tastes Jude's earwax. Mmm.

3. This book is clearly inspired by two songs I loved as an adolescent, which are good songs but probably inspire a lot of girls did who grow up to write novels based on fairy tales, which is endearing but potentially trite. To wit: "The Ocean" by Dar Williams* and "Silent All These Years" by Tori Amos.**

*I wanted to show you that I was more land than water...
It's where we came from, you know, and sometimes I just want to go back
After a day, we drink 'til we're drowning, walk to the ocean, wade in with our workboots...
You don't know how I am the one

**what if I'm a mermaid?
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LibraryThing member greeniezona
I may have read something about this book somewhere, but the decision to check this out at the library was based solely on its swoon-worthy cover coupled with the Tin House logo on the back. I then grabbed it on the way out the door to my first visit to a new doctor's office and was truly, deeply annoyed each time my wait was interrupted. (By, you know, being called back, the nurse showing up, the doctor showing up, etc.) I was submerged from the very start.

The basic idea is this. The unnamed narrator, a young woman, believes she is a mermaid. Her father used to tell her that she was, before he walked into the ocean and never returned. She is in love with an older man who was damaged by war. He is her only friend, but will not be with her, instead sleeping with nearly every other woman in town, making her incredibly desperate until she comes to believe that the sea will have its revenge on him -- the land-locked man who has captured her heart, keeping her on land, even as he does not love her.

Everything is from her point of view, which leaves the lines extremely blurry. Is she a mermaid? Is there magic? Or is it as most everyone else in the town believes -- that she is mentally ill?

There isn't much in the way of happiness in this book, or clarity, but it is so very spell-binding. It is as strange and powerful as the ocean that rules her tiny coastal town. As hard to fight when it has you in its grasp.

A marvelous achievement.
… (more)
LibraryThing member EKAnderson
What I love most about this book is its insane romanticism - not insane because it's romantic, but romantic because it's insane. Hunt's narrator has a special idealism in the face of imminent tragedy, and has convinced herself that she is a mermaid. The doomed love affair with a (much older) Gulf War vet and the isolated, coastal ship-building town add to the desolate landscape of this story that is absolutely unforgettable.… (more)
LibraryThing member 1Owlette
Beautifully written and haunting tale of a girl growing up in a town, in the 'Far North', which is best known for its phenomenal rate of alcoholics per capita, and who may or may not be a mermaid.
The supernaturally inflected, often dream-like story describes her troubled friendship with a local war veteran (and alcoholic)and their attempts to make sense of their lives and perhaps to find some way out of their situations. More of a novella than a novel, and perhaps more of a modern fairy tale than a novel, The Seas leaves a long-lasting and powerful, if hard to encapsulate, impression on the reader's imagination and own dreams.… (more)
LibraryThing member nosajeel
The Seas was an extraordinary novel by Samantha Hunt. It is told in the first person by a 19 year-old woman living in an unnamed small, northern seaside town with only one road leaving it (to the South, the road does not continue north). We are told the town has the highest rate of alcoholism in the country and it appears to be up there in suicide, accidental death, depression, insanity and cruelty as well.

The lyrical and spellbinding story is narrated by a 19 year-old girl (she does not seem anything like a woman) whose father drowned himself 11 years earlier and who thinks that he is still alive in the sea and that she is a mermaid. The novel is amazingly inventive with whimsical wordplay and imagination from beginning to end, telling the story of the girl's increasingly precipitous descent into her own world as she pursues a relationship with an emotionally damaged older man who returned from the war in Iraq.

Ultimately as much as one wants to believe that her father still loves her, that the older man knowingly sacrificed himself for her, that the blue lights following her car as it speeds along are the ocean and not the police, Hunt makes it nearly impossible and it is hard to escape the tragic conclusion that this is a sympathetic portrait of a wonderfully inventive but ultimately deeply depressing insanity, not a beautiful fantasy of a girl who is protected by her merman father who lives an enchanted life in otherwise dreary surroundings.

Samantha Hunt also wrote The Invention of Everything Else, a fictionalized account of the last days of Tesla as he befriends a chambermaid, which is also a window into madness and very highly recommended. Looking forward to more books by her.
… (more)
LibraryThing member austenheroin
a watery fairy tale, inovative and enchanting.
LibraryThing member gayla.bassham
So here is what I thought when I finished this book:
1. Samantha Hunt is prodigiously talented and I am very much looking forward to seeing what she does next.
2. This is not actually a very good novel.

There's some really good stuff here and some really choppy, disconnected stuff. I believe this is the first book that Hunt wrote and it shows. There's some good writing here and Hunt shows a lot of promise, but I'm not sure what it's doing on the Orange longlist. I can't believe this is one of the twenty best books by a woman published during the eligibility period.
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LibraryThing member ThomasPluck
great read, magical and dark and frightening and so close to home.
LibraryThing member basilsbooks
after the being told about Mr. Splitfoot by a friend I decided I also needed to check out the other book by the author which was this delight.
I read as little as I could about this book but read enough to know I was so completely in love with the idea. I don't have any really words to describe this one. I cried because the writing has way to put feelings into scenes that you can feel. It was messed up and lovely, I could definitely pick it up again already. I sat down and finished it in a day because putting it down would have been a crime.
Also how can you go wrong with mermaids?
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
The Seas is there was a good study of a frozen landscape in Alaska, a town with the highest per capita rate of alcoholism in the country. There's also a fine study of the environmental and personal consequences of war, the shelling of a 4000 year old ziggurat was perfect. Loneliness, separation and alcoholism was discussed but the style is annoyingly pseudo schizophrenic. She could have done much better.… (more)

Language

Original language

English

Physical description

208 p.; 5.5 inches

ISBN

0312425236 / 9780312425234

Local notes

fiction
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