Genre: historical fiction. ⭐️Stars from Goodreads: 3.77 ⭐️Stars from me: 5.
General information about The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is not a fantasy book. There’s an element of magical realism but it is not the focus of the plot. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is first of all about people, their fates and their lives. It’s about emotions, relationships, personalities and society. Although the novel is set in the 18th century England, its topics are not at all foreign to current days. In fact, if you peel away the surface layer of a very entertaining story, you will see that the setting serves as a lush frame for a modern picture.
The book is as beautiful and intricate as its cover. That’s actually how I discovered the book. I was looking for books that would be beautiful both inside and out. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is exactly what I was looking for.
I loved the book so much I was initially at a loss for words, which is a challenging situation for a reviewer. I took the book for a photo shoot, collected my thoughts and did eventually write the review. So here it is, together with the photos.
How good is The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock?
Do you remember the time when you were just entering the world of books, when every plot was an unpredictable story and characters were so real you imagined them to be your actual friends? The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is that good. If you thought some magic of the books has been forever lost to you because you grew up, read The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock and rediscover the feeling. This doesn’t mean, though, that it’s a kid book. Even though there’s a mermaid in the title, the protagonist is a courtesan so it’s definitely not a bedtime fairy tale for kids.
Reading The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock feels like watching underwater life through a snorkelling mask. You dive deep where you can no longer breathe so you have to hold your breath in exchange for the chance to see the beautiful world below. Sooner or later the real life will pull you back in but for the meantime you will be completely immersed into another reality.
The writing in The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
The writing is an undebatable treasure of this book. It’s hard to really illustrate how beautiful it is as it’s a part of a solid construction. It’s almost impossible to pull out a single feather in order to demonstrate it to you. You have to see the whole creation to really appreciate these details. Still, I managed to find some examples. Here they are:
In the landau, amongst a clutch of young ladies in white muslin, rides Mrs Chappell herself, the abbess of King’s Place. She is built like an armchair, more upholstered than clothed, her bolster of bosom heaving beneath cream taffeta and gold frogging.
All social gatherings have a riptide moving through them – some revellers joining the party as others melt away, some retiring to a quiet room, others emerging refreshed – and it is this unseen, unsought tide that nudges Angelica and the lieutenant closer and closer together without their even trying.
A loss is a presence all its own; a loss takes up space; a loss is born just as any other thing that lives.
Bawds are not, after all, the only mothers to profit by their daughters.
The characters in The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
First of all, the characters outgrow their sole form of mere characters. They are completely real. They change, grow and develop together with the story. It’s mesmerising to watch them, and to imagine what is going through their minds, what makes them take their decisions and how they react to the situations they find themselves in. On a few occasions I expected them to act differently, exactly because I was expecting them to act like characters in a book, but they had their own plans. They rarely act according to your expectations.
The plot in The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
The plot is another beautiful construction of the book. Where one part ends, another one starts. There are several storylines. Even if you don’t want to be distracted from one, you are given another one to follow. This way you are never bored and always have something to look forward to. The story is completely unpredictable. As soon as you think you know where it’s going, it takes another turn, which you didn’t imagine existed.
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock will haunt me
The decisions that characters take will stay with me for some time. They are so human and believable even though their situations are so dramatic and often impossible.
I will not forget one of the final scenes. It shows what happens to one of the characters. It’s deep and horrible even though it doesn’t give you any horrid details. It’s the highest level of skills when an author is able to achieve such an effect without rubbing graphic details into a reader’s face.
I will also keep thinking about one character. It’s perfectly clear what happens to her but I wish I could stay with her longer. I hope she will find her warm milk for breakfast, one day. Even though I know she is trapped within the covers of the book, I keep imagining her getting out of her situation, somewhere else in another dimension.
Would I recommend The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock?
Of course, definitely. I would only warn those who hunt for fantasy plots. This is not a fantasy book. In any other case, I’m sure you will like The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock.
27 thoughts on “The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar”
Wonderful review. I feel like I need to read this book now 🙂. Adding it to my TBR list.
Oh thank you! It’s such a great feeling to know that I helped discover a book. Although, obviously this book is not lacking in any attention. So many bloggers I know have read it and loved it.
It’s always nice to discover a good book.
Of course! I had a very productive conversation on Twitter on that topic yesterday. Downloaded a few books and samples to try. Now only time is needed 😁
😀Ah good ole time, we’re always chasing it aren’t we 😀
Thankfully one hour was added to our lives just yesterday. Is it the same for the place where you are or you are going to the winter time later?
Our time change starts Nov 4, gosh so that’s Sunday. Ya extra hour, but it will be dark each morning going to work, not so cool lol.
I think it will be actually brighter in the morning, but darker evenings. It feels like late night here at 5pm already. On a positive note though, it’s a good period for reading some gothic.
Lucky you lol. The sun doesn’t come up in Toronto, Canada until about 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. and the sun goes down like about 4:30 or 5:30. 😃depends, if we actuall get some sun that day 😃
A photoshoot for the book is a great idea.
Thanks Jason! I always do photoshoots for physical copies. They are a rare thing for me. So when I do get some, I take some photos either outside or with my cats 😁
It is a beautiful book, but while I agree it is very accomplished and well written, I didn’t love it quite as much as you did – I found the pacing in the third act rather patchy and neither did I care all that much for the characters. However, I won’t deny she has the makings of a great writer and I look forward to reading her next book.
It’s really interesting to know your perspective. I like trying to see it from a different angle. I will be so excited if/when she writes another book.
I kept thinking about your comment. 🙂 I thought, can it be that you disliked the same detail that I actually liked? You said that the final part was patchy but I remember liking it, because it felt unpredictable. I never knew where it was going, felt like real life :))
You’re right, the unpredictability did catch me off balance – but I also found the fact that the pacing suddenly slowed up during that third act seemed odd. But the main problem was that I didn’t care about any of the characters – the constant squabbling left me distanced from all of them. But I’ll freely agree that she writes beautifully and the world was magnificently evoked.
This part is particularly interesting to me, our different reactions to the characters. I really cared for them and I’m still thinking about them. I wish there was a sequel so I could learn more about their lives.
Yes! Isn’t that interesting? I found their constant squabbling offputting and distanced me from getting emotionally involved…
I really like your review, Alexandra. You have structured it so well, and I am glad you liked this book so much. I am trying to read more historical fiction at the moment, so may give this one a look. And I agree, the cover is great!
Thanks Stephen, it means a lot to receive such praise from you 😊, as you know I think your reviews are really profound. I’m not sure if it’s the book that you are looking for. There’s a historical setting but it’s mainly about relationships and hardships of people’s lives.
Definitely going to read this… some day. You’ve sold it to me 🙂
Yay! I’m so excited! I have a strong feeling that you will like it (judging from what I know about your reading tastes). So excited to know what you’ll think!
So many books I want to read are in hardback at the moment, I really prefer paperbacks so will have to wait for the paperback of this one 🙂
Why do you prefer paperbacks? I started ordering physical copies only recently and I’m surprised to see they don’t seem to make designs on hardcovers any more. They decorate the paper cover on top of it (what is the name, a sleeve?) but not the actual cover. It takes a bit of beauty out of the book. That’s why I think I will also be ordering paperbacks now, if possible, so that the picture of the design actually stays ON the book when I read it, and I wouldn’t need to store it separately in order not to damage it.
Hardbacks can be beautiful and better quality, but I have quite weak wrists and I find hardbacks too heavy to hold up! I know that’s a bit lame. Also paperbacks take up less space on the shelves and are lighter in my bag 😉
Oh, I am so excited to read this. My incoming request books from the library are already at like, ten, but I think I need to add this one, too, lol. I love when you connect with a book so much that it leaves you speechless at the end. It’s the hardest to write the reviews for the books you love the most. Glad you could eke out something for this one, though. 🙂 Looking forward to reading it!
Thanks CJ! You are absolutely right, it’s the hardest to write a review for something you loved so much. My first impulse is always to just say – read it, it’s SO good! 😄 I think you will like it. What else have you requested?
Oh, man. I just got two Jenny Colgan novels in, plus the new Irish Country Doctor, and one called THE SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES, which is someone’s life as a funeral director, or something along those lines, lol. I run a little macabre sometimes! But, it’s nice to have the first three lighter novels, particularly after my Halloween reads, and particularly before starting that last one that just came in!
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