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
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock Reviews

  • 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.

  • Helene Jeppesen

    What a wonderful, whimsical book! I admit I found this novel very daunting because of its size and because of its plot which has to do with mermaids and is in addition historical fiction. For that reason, I was hesitant to pick it up, and I let it stay put on my bookshelves for several weeks.

    One day, however, I decided it was time to read it, and from the very first chapters I knew that this was not at all the daunting story I was expecting. Instead, it started out with the most intriguing plot

    What a wonderful, whimsical book! I admit I found this novel very daunting because of its size and because of its plot which has to do with mermaids and is in addition historical fiction. For that reason, I was hesitant to pick it up, and I let it stay put on my bookshelves for several weeks.

    One day, however, I decided it was time to read it, and from the very first chapters I knew that this was not at all the daunting story I was expecting. Instead, it started out with the most intriguing plot, written in a perfectly accessible language, that had me want to keep going and not put down this novel.

    “The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock” is about Mr Hancock who is one day told by one of his hired captains, that the captain has sold his ship in trade for a mermaid. What is one to do with a mermaid? That is was Mr Hancock sets out to find out. Meanwhile, we follow Angelica who works in a whorehouse and has no scrupples when it comes to men and her own reputation.

    The mermaid in this book serves more as a gateway to the lives of Mr Hancock and Angelica, so that the mermaid - who is actually the focal point of the story - is also put very much in the background throughout most of the novel.

    I loved the character development in this beautifully crafted book. I loved how it was written in a way that convinced you it was set in the 1700s, but at the same time it has some scenes that are so candid and honest that you can’t help but be surprised and enthralled.

    “The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock” is one of those books that had so many memorable scenes in it that, at one point, I had to stop my reading and write them down. I am still perplexed at how much this book took me by surprise, and I believe that it is a beautifully crafted and whimsical story from beginning till end.

  • Beata

    What a surprise! What a discovery! The novel is truly amazing regarding the plot and the language. I felt like I was reading a book written in the 18th century. The period details, tea bowls and coffee shops among others, are marvellous, which does not surprise as the Author has worked for several museums. But what really swept me off my feet (sofa) was incorporating a shell-grotto which reminds me of famous Pope's grotto at Twickenham. This novel is simply outstanding!

  • 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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  • 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.

  • Hannah Greendale

    to watch a video review of this book on my channel,

    .

    A coquettish gallivant through 1780’s London, where a man’s life is upended by the gift of an infant mermaid’s corpse, and a courtesan frets over her waning beauty. Magical realism is as glittering and elusive as a mercurial sea nymph. The pacing is a slow stream, but the prose is an aphrodisiac. A promising debut; Gowar is an author to watch.

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    🧜♀ 🧜♀ 🧜♀ 🧜♀

    In 1780s London, Jonah Hancock is a merchant and owns a ship. A captain knocks on his door urgently with the news he’s sold Hancock’s ship in return for a mermaid.

    Word of the mermaid spreads quickly like sensational things do, and everyone wants to lay eyes on the sight. This mermaid is the key to Hancock climbing into high society, and that he does, with speed.

    It is at a most prestigious party that Hancock meets the alluring Angelica

    🧜‍♀️ 🧜‍♀️ 🧜‍♀️ 🧜‍♀️

    In 1780s London, Jonah Hancock is a merchant and owns a ship. A captain knocks on his door urgently with the news he’s sold Hancock’s ship in return for a mermaid.

    Word of the mermaid spreads quickly like sensational things do, and everyone wants to lay eyes on the sight. This mermaid is the key to Hancock climbing into high society, and that he does, with speed.

    It is at a most prestigious party that Hancock meets the alluring Angelica Neal. Two ambitious minds have now collided, and their futures are full of intrigue.

    The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is a big, larger-than-life, smart story. It spotlights those strange curiosities of the time and is full of atmosphere. The writing is lyrical and stunning setting up a vivid sense of time and place. I found it immersive and all-consuming.

    You should know there is not as much true magic or fantasy in the story as one might think, given the title, and the fact that a mermaid is most definitely present (but in the background). The story goes far beyond the oddity, including how humans are always grappling for more: more stature and wealth, more attention. It ends on a magnificent note, and I was most satisfied with the story from start to finish!

    Thanks to Harper for the electronic ARC. I also purchased a hard copy from Book of the Month. All opinions are my own.

    My reviews can also be found on my blog:

  • 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.

  • Melanie

    This was my pick for the September 2018

    box!

    Friends, life is just too short to read books that feel like a chore. On top of racist comments, use of slurs for Romani people, questionable antisemitic speech, slut shaming, and other gross things because of “historical accuracy!” Miss me with all that, please. And the last chapter I finished (14) literally had a questionable orgy going

    This was my pick for the September 2018

    box!

    Friends, life is just too short to read books that feel like a chore. On top of racist comments, use of slurs for Romani people, questionable antisemitic speech, slut shaming, and other gross things because of “historical accuracy!” Miss me with all that, please. And the last chapter I finished (14) literally had a questionable orgy going on so that men could fulfill their fantasy of having sex with mermaids. Life is too short, friends. Way too short.

    But this is a book set in 1785 London, where a merchant named Mr. Hancock receives a dead mermaid. Said dead mermaid is shown at local exhibit and the entire country goes wild over it. I didn’t get far enough to actually see who becomes the new Mrs. Hancock, but I pity her anyway.

    I will say that this book probably does get better, because it was shortlisted for

    in 2018, but I just can’t keep reading this. I hope if you pick this one up that you’ll have more enjoyment than I did. Happy reading, friends.

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