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Cover for The Merman

The Merman

Carl-Johan Vallgren


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Paperback (1/24/2017)


Nella and her brother Robert live a difficult life with their mother and father in a small town on the west coast of Sweden. Robert is bullied at school, and Nella has to resort to debt and petty crime to pay off his tormentors. When she turns to her friend Tommy for help, her suspicions are aroused by the mysterious comings and goings of his brothers at their dilapidated boat house. But when she uncovers the reason behind their enigmatic behavior, her life is opened to the realities of a mindboggling secret. The Merman is a dark and haunting novel about sibling love and betrayal—and about what happens when the mundane collides with the strange and beautiful.

Praise For The Merman

A dark, brooding Scandinavian fantasy. A
hauntingly affective fable.

has written a deeply dark novel. Nella's wise stoicism makes her a memorable
and affecting character, and her connection to the mistreated merman shows that
working toward understanding is what can ultimately lead to redemption. A grim
and moving contemporary fairy tale.

A gloriously inventive historical adventure.

Vallgren’s merman sits, tonally, directly across from Disney’s Ariel. His riveting newly translated novel, The Merman, aligns more with his Scandinavian predecessor Hans Christian Andersen. There is nothing fanciful about this merman and his existence. There’s a trembling beauty to the darkness in this book and how it views hope.

Vallgren will send you into new imaginative depths with The Merman, his unexpectedly arresting saga of magic realism. It is a revelation, and a riveting one at that. Packed with bracing and utterly believable brutality; it does not flutter but treads heavily, with deep social and literary purpose. This novel hooks you quietly, though insistently, with the gathering sense that events are pulsing toward something volatile and spectacular.

Sensational. Vallgren has a superb talent, and makes witty and convincing cameos of the infamous and the great.

A heart-aching novel that resonated with me on a level I did not know existed. It’s a book I strongly recommend.

Frame[s] the everyday with an almost medieval fascination with the grotesque and the macabre.

Realistic and heartbreaking. A dark fairy tale about a mythical creature from the deep and the possibility of resisting evil. Nella is a burdened but strong and compassionate young woman and wins the reader's heart. Vallgren evokes his fantasy element with wonder and detail; The Merman is a singular story. Fans of adult fairy tales and bleak realism will be haunted and enthralled by this novel of human tragedies, and the mystery of what lies beyond.

There are some nicely observed episodes here and disturbing metaphors that offer brilliant, brief illuminations of his brutal subject matter.


Pegasus Books, 9781605989129, 256pp.

Publication Date: December 7, 2015

About the Author

Carl-Johan Vallgren is the author of eight novels, two of which, The Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-reading Monster Hercules Barefoot and Documents Concerning Rubashov the Gambler, have been translated into English. His novels have been translated into eleven languages. He lives in Stockholm.