Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid in the Hudson
Set in New York at the turn of the century, Sailor Twain evokes the Gilded Age steamboat era on the Hudson River. This beautiful graphic novel features Captain Twain, a young riverboat captain of innocent nature and upstanding morals, who faithfully serves his ship and sends money home to his ailing wife, while secretly yearning for something more. His foil is Lafayette, the dashing Frenchman who has managed the business since his brother’s mysterious disappearance, but who spends more time flirting with passengers than attending to ship affairs. The two men strike up a delicate balance – until one night Twain pulls an injured mermaid from the waters of the Hudson, and everything changes. Where has the mermaid come from? What does she want? What is her connection to Lafayette? And can Twain resist her magnetic pull when he and his wife have grown so far apart?
Mark Siegel beautifully evokes the rich atmosphere of the Hudson River Valley, and uses strategic composition to create truly extraordinary cinematic effects. However, I was occasionally thrown off by the stark differences in artistic portrayals: while many of the characters are drawn with great realism, Twain and his wife have the round eyes and simplistic, cartoonish features of a Raggedy Ann and Andy. Perhaps this was meant to emphasize their relative innocence and purity, but the effect was overdone, and it proved difficult to concentrate on scenes where starkly contrasting characters interacted on the same artistic plane.
Overall, however, the graphic effects were captivating, and I was entranced by both the artwork and the story. With nudity and occasional sex scenes, this is a graphic novel for older teens, not for younger readers. Teens and adults who pick up Sailor Twain for a quick glance will soon be completely absorbed in this book’s marvelous world.