The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Posted On 1 February 2018

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 31 responses

mermaidThe Mermaid and Mrs Hancock is a modern day classic.  Set in London during the Georgian period.  This is a historical style novel with a hint of fantasy thrown in.  I loved this.  The writing is simply gorgeous.  Think of the saucy Moll Flanders or the romps through Vanity Fair and couple those with the more modern writing from The Crimson Petal or Norrell and Strange and you may be able to glean an idea of the make up of this story.

The main protagonist is Jonah Hancock, a shipping merchant based in London during the 18th century.  Jonah lives alone, his beloved wife having died, along with his son, during childbirth.  His nature lends itself to the romantic. He often wonders what his life would have been like and fancies he can hear footsteps on the stairs when there are none there.  Jonah is a reasonably well to do fellow and is pleased to be put upon by the rest of his family to help his many nieces and nephews and in fact one of his nieces, fifth or sixth daughter of Jonah’s older sister currently resides with him.  You certainly detect a hint of sadness about Jonah as the story commences but his fortunes are about to change.  Jonah anxiously awaits the return of his ship, however, when the captain of the ship finally makes an appearance, knocking on Jonah’s door late one evening, it is with startling news.  Jonah finds himself the proud owner of a curiosity that will change his life in the strangest way.

At the same time we are made aware of the fall in fortune of Angelica Neal.  Angelia is a famous courtesan of the period.  Unfortunately she’s fallen on slightly hard times and is currently planning the best way to relaunch herself into society.  At 27, and hailed to be one of the fairest and most desirable women in the country, Angelica is all to aware that she needs to strike whilst the iron is hot, which is to say she understands that her good lucks will not last forever.

The two of them are about to be thrown together in a, at first, not entirely agreeable fasion.  Their paths will then cross a number of times until Mr Hancock finally makes a promise to Angelia that may cost them both more than they bargained on.

I think what really made this story for me is a combination of the setting, which comes so gloriously to life during the read, the period in which it’s based which was a time of invention and curiosity when people were fascinated with the strange and the bizarre and curiosites were avidly sought after, and the characters.  I found myself totally transfixed by both storylines and in fact really liked both of the main characters, so much so that I wanted to shake them both when their paths teetered on the edge of darkness.  Put bluntly, I found myself wishing for a happy ending for them both.

I feel that the author has managed to accomplish here the perfect balance of historical and modern.  She manages to evoke the period so well and yet her writing has an easy charm and modern feel.  It really does feel like a perfect accomplishment.  The story has a saucy edge to it that could be shocking but instead comes across as another curiosity of the period and there’s a wit and feel of the comedic thrown into the mix.  A good story that at the same time is not too shy to poke a little bit of fun.

The element of the story in which the mermaid resides is craftily done. On reflection, was there a mermaid at all?  It all feels a little bit like smoke and mirrors which is fitting for the period and helps to create an underlying current of tension that is ramped up during the final chapters.  It’s like watching an old black and white film – where you were never quite shown the horror that was lurking in the attic – but you so desperately wanted to see it – then you caught a quick glimpse.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t have any.  I would perhaps say that if you’re less inclined to read historical novels and more inclined to want your fantasy in greater abundance then this might not be the story for you.  I love reading fantasy but I also have a penchant for classic reads and historical novels so this worked perfectly for me.

Overall I thought this was charming, witty and beautifully written and I will certainly keep track of where this author goes next.  For now, the Mermaid and Mrs Hancock have provided me with the perfect fix for my historical yearning.

I received a copy, courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


31 Responses to “The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar”

  1. sjhigbee

    This sounds a really lovely book, Lynn – many thanks for sharing! I love the premise of this book with a mix of historical and fantasy – and you wrote a lovely review:)

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think this book is set to become a ‘big’ things. It’s just so good. I loved it.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        I need to get hold of it, I think…

      • @lynnsbooks

        Oh yes, do so – I’ll stay here and wait….. seriously, I’d love to know what you think of it – I thought it was just lovely.
        Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Given I’m currently writing a sea-based fantasy, it sounds like I ought to get hold of this one:))

      • @lynnsbooks

        I really enjoyed it – seriously I think this must be one of the success stories of the year or I simply won’t be able to believe it. So, that’s a yes, read it! And, mmm, sea based fantasy.
        Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    This sounds so good! I remember seeing it earlier and wondering if I should request a review copy, but I think I was overloaded at that time. I love stories where the fantasy elements may or may not be real.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I loved this and I can see it becoming a huge success. It would certainly transition really well to the big screen. I must admit that after I requested it I had doubts and thought maybe I’d made a mistake but I was sucked in as soon as I started reading.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I haven’t heard of this one before, and it sounds wonderful!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I loved it. It made me smile as I was reading and I simply don’t know how the author managed to give this such a classic feel at the same time as being really easy to get along with.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Ah, this sounds like my favorite kind of historical fiction, with all the charm and loveliness of history and just a touch of fantasy thrown in!

    • @lynnsbooks

      This book was gorgeous – I loved it and will definitely read more by this author.
      Lynn 😀

  5. DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    I wouldn’t have given this book a glance it wasn’t for this review, and I think I really want to read this now? Lol 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really loved it – I don’t know if you’re a fan of classic style historical novels with a touch of fantasy but if you are then you should definitely give this a try – I think this will be one of the successes of the year.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Carmen

    What a great review, Lynn; you did the book justice. 😉

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thanks – I really wanted to because it was so good.
      Lynn 😀

  7. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    What an enticing review, indeed! 🙂
    There is nothing that draws my attention more than a review where you can actually “taste” the reader’s enjoyment, and yours belongs exactly in that category. Moreover, I love the idea of the perfect historical placement coupled with modern writing: a match made in heaven, I daresay…
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I just loved this – I can’t say enough goods things and perhaps it will feel light on fantasy for some but for me it was just perfection. I could read it again.
      Lynn 😀

  8. proxyfish

    This sounds like a book I’d really enjoy! I do love my fantasies but historical fiction would come a close second. The cover isn’t half bad either 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I loved this book, absolutely loved it – in fact I could happily read this again if I only had the time.
      Lynn 😀

  9. jessicabookworm

    This sounds like my cup of tea 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      This is definitely your cup of tea. It’s so good I can’t recommend it enough. I think this book will definitely be a big hit this year.
      Lynn 😀

  10. Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar – this book is amazing.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  A romping, classical style type story that is just wonderful.  I had my doubts because there’s very little fantasy involved here – but this book is amazing and absolutely deserves all the recognition it receives. […]

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  12. Friday Face Off : The child is in love with a human. And not just any human. A prince!’ | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] comes up with this week.  I’ve chosen an absolutely wonderful book that I just loved : The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes […]

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  15. A Perfect Marriage : Magic and Realism | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar – period drama set in a time during history when people were enchanted/fascinated by the idea of anything magical.  Mr Hancock comes into possession of a ‘Mermaid’ when what he really wants is a wife and companion.  Clever, witty and a bit of a romp. […]

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    […] The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar.  This gave me the feeling of reading a classic – but something along the lines of Moll Flanders.  Very cheeky and with light fantasy.  I can’t wait to see what this author does next. […]

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