Book Review: ‘The Undrowned Child’ by Michelle Lovric

A wonderfully surreal and at time subversive romp through a Victorian Venice awash with saucy-tongued mermaids, green poisonous icecream, malevolent seagulls and beetles, lurid pirates, shapeshifting cats and a hideous cannibalistic butcher, who carries his head under his arm in what could be a nod (pun intended) to Washington Irving. Teo is endearingly bookish, her friend Renzo is slight, scholarly and ultimately gallant, whilst the haughty, sometimes flirtatious mermaids are good fun. On a quest to stop the legendary historical traitor Bajamonte Tiepolo (try saying that when you’ve had a few ginger beers), Teo and Renzo hurry down the backstreets of a half-imaginary, half-real Venice, clutching a magical book that helps them at every turn. On the way they encounter mythical apothecaries stocking ‘Venetian Treacle’, plague-ridden children and sinister sculptures. All the while Bajamonte grows in strength, and threatens to have his bloody revenge on Venice once and for all…

All in all, I loved this book, and could hardly put it down! A rollicking, rambunctious read full of the salty tang of a Venice both real and wonderfully imagined. (And the mermaids are delightful.)

 Overall rating: Whimsical, wonderful and at times highly inventive, Lovric has proven to me that she’s a writer to watch out for. 8 out of 10.

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