Monday, September 29, 2008

INGO by Helen Dunmore

Ingo Ingo by Helen Dunmore
rating: 3 of 5 stars
When Sapphire's father disappears, most people say he's been drowned, although the more vicious of the townspeople say he ran off with another woman. But neither Sapphy or her brother Conor believe either story. Raised on the coast of Cornwall, they have an intimate connection to the sea and her mysteries. Neither of them realizes quite how intimate. When Sapphire feels an irresistible call to the ocean, she must choose where her loyalties lie - to her Air family and the brother whom she adores, or to Ingo, whose power thrums in her veins.

When I stumbled upon it in a Paperback Swap, the premise of Ingo appealed to my YA-fantasy-genes. Unfortunately, the execution is a little weak. The characters are not fully described, so that when one of them (Sapphy, frequently) does something that shows a complexity of heart and mind, I wasn't quite sure how we'd gotten to that place. There are some really lovely moments, like Sapphire mentally connecting to a dolphin while riding it, or a conversation her brother Conor has with honeybees. There are also some awkward moments. Sapphire, frankly, drones on and on about her connection to the ocean, but when her mother's new boyfriend suggests Sapphire should have the dog she's always wanted, Sapphire rethinks her loyalty to Ingo.

Overall, this is a more mature and vivid, almost mystical, view of merpeople than, for example, The Tale of Emily Windsnap. It has the poignant sadness of the original version of "A Little Mermaid," and it reflects Dunmore's deep, abiding love and respect for the sea.

By the way, I found a particularly vile review on Amazon, and had to respond to it. The reviewer (from Georgia) warns that the contents of the book are junk and will cause the reader to go straight to hell. Why she's letting her children read books at all is beyond me, but in my response, I used the word "villipend"!!

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