Costa Book of the Year 2020: ‘Utterly original’ Mermaid of Black Conch wins

Monique Roffey 's 'The Mermaid of Black Conch' wins Costa Book of the Year 2020

In the UK, Monique Roffey has won the £30,000 (A$53,000) Costa Book of the Year for her novel The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story (Peepal Tree Press). The Mermaid of Black Conch, Roffey’s sixth novel, is ‘a dark love story between a fisherman and a mermaid torn from the sea’. Trinidadian-born British writer Monique Roffey beat four other contenders with her sixth novel to scoop the £30,000 prize.

Chair of judges Suzannah Lipscomb said the novel is ‘an extraordinary, beautifully written, captivating, visceral book—full of mythic energy and unforgettable characters, including some tremendously transgressive women’. A “delighted” Roffey said her win was a vote for Caribbean literature. “A huge thank you to the judges for exposing my book to a wide readership. I’ll be pinching myself for weeks to come,” she added. After the book was turned down by the big publishers, it was published by Leeds-based independent Peepal Tree Press, with Roffey crowdfunding her own PR campaign for the title. Based on a Taino legend of a beautiful woman transformed into a mermaid, the story is set in the Caribbean village of St Constance. David, a fisherman, unexpectedly attracts the attention of Aycayia, a mermaid who is drawn to his singing. When she is captured from the sea during an annual fishing competition, he does all he can to save her, with dramatic consequences.