Science has often been seen as a man’s endeavour, even today there are few women in the more ‘masculine fields’ of physics or engineering. But that is nothing compared to science in the 18th century, where it was near impossible for a woman to live an independent life, let alone pursue scientific research. Rebecca Mascull’s second novel ‘Song of the Sea Maid’ explores these issues, taking a young girl with an inquisitive and intelligence mind and following her as she becomes a natural philosopher, determined to travel the world and conduct her own research free from the constraints of men.
This book is beautifully written. The words are lyrical and the plot is compelling. While it is not a quick read, or one that is particularly adventurous, it is peaceful and the slow-pace allows you to get involved with Dawnay’s story and come to understand her without having to navigate external threats and action. Dawnay, herself, is a brilliant lead. You can’t help but love her from the moment she is introduced, something that continues throughout the novel. You are on her side.
There were a couple of instances where this loyalty wavered, however, as I could not get behind the main romance of the novel. The very nature of it went against what I knew of the age this novel is set and my own, personal, opinions about relationships – essentially, I cannot connect to a relationship with someone already married. Had he not been married, it would probably be different, as there was obviously a connection and one that was believable.
I also really enjoyed reading about some of the problems Dawnay came up against for the sheer fact that she was a woman. I do wish there was more of these instances as it felt that the main men in the novel were very accepting of her pursuits, despite it going against the very nature of society at that time. As a result, there were sections which felt very convenient and unbelievable.
That being said, I did enjoy this novel. It was very different to my usual reads and so it was a very refreshing read. The writing was wonderful and the two main climactic events were thrilling and terrifying – it felt like you were there. I do think, however, that it is a book which you need to be in the right mind-set for, as the slow pace can seem boring at times, if you are not feeling that invested in this type of novel.