The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

This voyage is special. It will change everything… One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel...

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Title:The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock
Author:Imogen Hermes Gowar
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The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock Reviews

  • Emma

    Superlative immersive historical fiction! Loved it. The writing was evocative with details of sights, sounds, behaviours and vocabulary of the age. There was no way for me to predict how events would turn out, but it was a wonderful read. Heartily recommended to lovers of (Georgian) historical fiction.

    Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book. All opinions are my own.

  • Simon

    I insist you all read Imogen Hermes Gowar’s fabulous debut The Mermaid & Mrs Hancock; a historical romp with wonderful characters, saucy shenanigans, dark glimmering corners of 1700’s society and possibly a mermaid or two. An utter treat. I need say no more.

  • Evelina | AvalinahsBooks

    hm, super curious. No mermaid, no Mrs Hancock. What is to come of this?

    yes. The mermaid. Still no Mrs Hancock though. But there are other interesting things going on, so no matter!

    --- o....kay. Back to square one. But I'm attached to the characters by now! There's still half the book... WHY is it called that though??

    --- it seems everything is settled! At least we've got Mrs Hancock no

    hm, super curious. No mermaid, no Mrs Hancock. What is to come of this?

    yes. The mermaid. Still no Mrs Hancock though. But there are other interesting things going on, so no matter!

    --- o....kay. Back to square one. But I'm attached to the characters by now! There's still half the book... WHY is it called that though??

    --- it seems everything is settled! At least we've got Mrs Hancock now. Never you mind that mermaid. But what could still happen?

    --- err, okay. Well at least the name works out. Kind of wish it didn't though...

    --- oh... again, did not expect this. Although it's a nope from me. Y U do dis, characters?? You could just be happy instead, maybe??

    --- right. Alright. I can settle on that.

    Read the rest of the review and my thoughts on it

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  • Claire

    One of my favourite books of the year!

  • Melanie

    This has been one of my most anticipated reads for 2018. As a fan of historical fiction, I was excited that Imogen Hermes Gowar has chosen to set her tale in the 18th century London and her description of the town and its people is colourful, atmospheric and drew me right in.

    The story is sold as a mix of historical fiction with magical realism and yes, there is some magical realism but that really only occurs at the end of the book (as in the last 15%) and is what ultimately brought this book d

    This has been one of my most anticipated reads for 2018. As a fan of historical fiction, I was excited that Imogen Hermes Gowar has chosen to set her tale in the 18th century London and her description of the town and its people is colourful, atmospheric and drew me right in.

    The story is sold as a mix of historical fiction with magical realism and yes, there is some magical realism but that really only occurs at the end of the book (as in the last 15%) and is what ultimately brought this book down a little bit for me, as it felt slightly crammed in and rushed.

    Overall, I have to say though, that I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the characters have followed me around and when I was not reading the book I was thinking about it. I thought, the author did a good job in describing the diversity in 18th century London, especially with slaves from the former American colonies settling in London after the American Independence. However, it also felt that it was in there because it wanted to be diverse, but this did not matter to me, because it is important to demonstrate that history is not just white.

    Some people may not like the very descriptive and explicit sex scenes at the beginning of the book, but the tone changes throughout as Angelica Neale's life changes, again, I thought the author did that very well.

    Overall, an excellent debut, shame about the ending.

  • Paromjit

    This debut atmospheric historical fiction by Imogen Hermes Gowar is an enthralling tale set in 18th century London, where much is in flux with the world irrevocably changing culturally and so much that is new is being introduced to society such as the tantalising strange foods. It should be made clear the fantasy element suggested by the mermaid in the title stays in the background until the latter stages of the story. It is 1785, and John Hancock, merchant, frets over the possible loss of one o

    This debut atmospheric historical fiction by Imogen Hermes Gowar is an enthralling tale set in 18th century London, where much is in flux with the world irrevocably changing culturally and so much that is new is being introduced to society such as the tantalising strange foods. It should be made clear the fantasy element suggested by the mermaid in the title stays in the background until the latter stages of the story. It is 1785, and John Hancock, merchant, frets over the possible loss of one of his ships. A captain of one of his ship's informs him excitedly that he has sold his ship to purchase a 'mermaid', a dead thing with the tail of a fish and the body of a monkey. Initially Hancock feels it is of precious little value only to find he is mistaken and off the mark.

    There are widespread rumours and curiosity for the weird 'mermaid' and people are willing to pay to see it. Hancock finds himself in a scenario he never expected to be in, he comes to enter a wider society and connects with elements of London he has no experience of. He meets the most famous courtesan in London, Angelica Neal, and an unconventional romance blossoms between the odd couple. However, their path to true love is littered with obstacles. It is said that the power of mermaids is to destroy, but is this so? The role and magic of the mermaid becomes central closer to end of the novel. Gowar's prose is beautiful, overflowing with wonderful descriptions and rich period details. London is evoked brilliantly with its changes in society, the theatres, the brothels, the coffee houses, the villainy, the dangers, the dirt and the stench. This is not a perfect book by any stretch of the imagination, but I loved reading it, finding myself immersed in the world created by Gowar. A great read! Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.

  • Sara

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review,

    I think I was expecting more from this than delivered - and I don't think that's entirely the books fault. I was expecting magical realism, fantasy and mermaids based on the blurb. What I got was a well written historical romance novel, steeped in descriptive prose that felt a little flat to me.

    The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock follows a humble merchant and his love for a courtesan, whom he meets after a chance encounter with a mermaid.

    Jo

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review,

    I think I was expecting more from this than delivered - and I don't think that's entirely the books fault. I was expecting magical realism, fantasy and mermaids based on the blurb. What I got was a well written historical romance novel, steeped in descriptive prose that felt a little flat to me.

    The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock follows a humble merchant and his love for a courtesan, whom he meets after a chance encounter with a mermaid.

    Jonah was a little dull in character, and felt as though he was severally lacking in any emotional depth (and backbone). Angelica, our courtesan, in comparison is scatty and all over the place. I wasn't keen on her characterization either, as she felt so different to Jonah, and I couldn't really understand her interest in him at all.

    The pace is agonizingly slow, and the romance takes a long time to develop. I understand that the constraints of the time meant a romance of this nature would be upheld with trepidation and many longing glances - but unfortunately I felt it meandered too much before anything really happens. The ending, although it took a long time to get to, also left a lot of loose story lines which annoyed me.

    I really didn't get what I expected out of this unfortunately. If it was targeted more as a historical romance it would perhaps find a better audience.

  • Hannah

    In this historical novel, Jonah Hancock, a widowed merchant, comes into possession of a dead mermaid. While trying to find a way to make money of this, he crosses paths with Angelica Neal, a courtesan whose protector has unexpectedly died.

    My thoughts on this are very complicated. I don’t think I have been this unsure how to rate a book this year yet. Therefore, here are my thoughts, first in list form and then more elaborate:

    Pros:

    - mesmerizing language

    - wonderful description

    - immersive setting

    -

    In this historical novel, Jonah Hancock, a widowed merchant, comes into possession of a dead mermaid. While trying to find a way to make money of this, he crosses paths with Angelica Neal, a courtesan whose protector has unexpectedly died.

    My thoughts on this are very complicated. I don’t think I have been this unsure how to rate a book this year yet. Therefore, here are my thoughts, first in list form and then more elaborate:

    Pros:

    - mesmerizing language

    - wonderful description

    - immersive setting

    - unpredictable plot

    Cons:

    - glacial pacing

    - characters

    - meandering plot.

    This is one of the most beautifully written books I have read this year. Imogen Hermes Gowar has a brilliant way with words and I love how immersive her setting is. I could picture every single thing she describes, from the shipyards, to the brothels, to the houses of the rich and the houses of the merchants, to the parks and alleys. The dresses and the way people looked came alive in her description and this made for a vivid reading experience.

    However, the pacing was glacial and the plot meandering. Told in third person from numerous perspectives, I am quite unsure what the main story was supposed to be. (Jonah Hancock and his niece and sister and their relationships are one focus of this work, Angelica Neal and her confidante another, her relationship with another suitor the third, Mrs Chappell and her prostitutes another, then there is a the subplot of Polly, one of Mrs Chappell’s black prostitutes and how she is treated for being such, then the search for another mermaid and so on and so forth.) While plenty of these perspectives could have been interesting we often did not spend enough time with these people for them to come alive. The two main protagonists, Jonah and Angelica, also stayed undefined for me. Especially Angelica was hard to root for in the first half of the book, although she did grow on me in the end. I wish the plotting had been tighter or (and I cannot believe I am saying this about a 500-page long book) the book longer. I would have liked more closure on some of these storylines (especially Polly’s!).

    Ultimately, what will stick with me is the unbelievably beautiful writing. While long stretches were excruciatingly boring there was never a moment where Imogen Hermes Gowar was not in perfect command of her language. This alone is enough for me to be excited about what she will do next.

    I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Harvill Secker in exchange for an honest review.

  • Emma

    First of all, I'd like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    I don't think I've ever read a book that was so thoroughly not for me in my life. I really struggled to get through the pages - it took me well over a month to read, even though I've been known to read books of equal length in two days flat - and I just never warmed to it at all.

    I'll start with the good points, just to get them out of the way - firstly, the autho

    First of all, I'd like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    I don't think I've ever read a book that was so thoroughly not for me in my life. I really struggled to get through the pages - it took me well over a month to read, even though I've been known to read books of equal length in two days flat - and I just never warmed to it at all.

    I'll start with the good points, just to get them out of the way - firstly, the author's writing style is admittedly lovely, and does a very good job of evoking the era, the places and the characters depicted. However, even the writing rang a bit hollow to me at times - it was a bit like a courtesan's glamour, all frothy, pretty little turns of phrase which cleverly disguised the lack of any underlying substance.

    The premise of the whole book is based around the relationship that kindles between one of London's most famous courtesans and a staid middle-aged merchant, and the mermaid that unexpectedly enters the latter's possession. A note to any fans of fantasy (like me) who are tempted to pick this book up because the mention of a mermaid intrigues you: don't. The mermaid barely features, and the elements of magical realism are severely underused in general; they only really have an effect on the last 20% or so of the book, and barely at that, fizzling into nothing in the last few pages.

    I also found it almost impossible to connect with any of the characters in this novel. While I was pleased by how many of the characters were women, I'm utterly sick of fiction in which women are constantly at each other's throats. Meanwhile, the two main characters' romance was surprisingly tolerable, and one quiet scene between them early in their relationship was actually one of my favourite scenes in the whole novel, but I found both of the characters themselves unbearably insipid. The narrative also dipped into the side characters' stories fairly often, almost randomly, and in most cases without any satisfying resolution. I actually found several of the side characters more interesting than the main characters - Sukie and Polly were probably my favourites, and I hated how neither of them got any real narrative resolution. In fact, the entire plot just kind of ambled along with no real drive or cohesion throughout the whole book.

    Finally, the book seemed to be trying to make a point about women's place in society, but utterly unable to actually figure out what that point might be, and it was even clumsier when trying to comment on historical race relations, which made a couple of scenes downright uncomfortable to read. All in all, not my cup of tea at all, and not a book I'll be recommending.

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