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The Girl from the Sea (and other stories)

Author: Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

Translator: Margaret Jull Costa, Robin Patterson   Cover design: Marie Lane   Cover illustration: Jesus Gaban Bravo  

These stories have come to us from Portugal and this is the first English translation of this Portuguese writer who has classic status in her own country. They are lyrical tales with a message for the reader. Central to all, a recurring theme, is a love for the natural world and our relationship to it and the stories presented here are in tone reflective rather than active. They are very much literary fairy tales that make one think of Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde. But they are not as cruel in their judgements; rather there is an attractive gentleness. One might expect The Girl from the Sea to be comparable to the Little Mermaid with a similar moralistic and tragic ending. Rather we are given a story which shows that there can be a different relationship between the human world and that of the sea – and this relationship is the message throughout the volume. The prose flows easily, the translation attractive and readable. These are stories that could benefit from being read aloud and shared to encourage discussion since most are relatively short and have the pleasing shape of the traditional tale. This is a very welcome addition to the bookshelves, opening eyes and minds to the literature of the wider world and bringing young readers new voices, new cadences, opening new doors and windows for the imagination.

Ferelith Hordon in Books for Keeps

A collection of short stories for children by a beloved Portuguese author.

A boy finds a green-haired, purple-eyed little girl by the sea and strikes up a new friendship that will change his life forever when they seek to fulfill their dreams. The Fairy Oriana discovers the importance of her life’s mission through a journey of self-awareness. A young girl learns the true meaning of Christmas after she befriends a poor boy. A Danish knight travels the world and back again in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Garden flowers throw an unforgettable secret party. Eleven-years-old Isabel meets a dwarf with a golden treasure and a centuries-old mission. An enormous, ancient tree is the centerpiece of life in a small Japanese island. A girl from a village in Japan inherits a magical mirror from her late mother. The author is one of Portugal’s greatest modern poets, and this first English translation of eight of her short stories abounds with allegories about nature, friendship, community, and ethics, all firmly rooted in the author’s Catholic faith and interwoven with fantastical elements. Two of the stories (“The Tree” and “The Mirror, or the Living Portrait”) are loose adaptations of Japanese folktales while the other six are standard European-style fables with strong didactic cores.

Kirkus Reviews

RRP: £11.99

No. of pages: 306

Publication date: 06.03.2020

ISBN numbers:
978 1 912868 03 2
978 1 912868 33 9

Dedalus World English