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The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,546 Ratings  ·  316 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published January 25th 2018 by Harvill Secker
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  • The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
    The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
    Release date: Sep 11, 2018
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    Format: Print book

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    Availability: 50 copies available, 1664 people requesting

    Giveaway dates: May 08 - Jun 08, 2018

    Countries available: US

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    Sally this is definitely an adult read. the writing style alone is quite beautiful and sophisticated, there's quite a serious, melancholy thing going on in…morethis is definitely an adult read. the writing style alone is quite beautiful and sophisticated, there's quite a serious, melancholy thing going on in latter part of book plus subject matter: prostitutes, 18th century punishment... is probably not for YA. This is NOT Disney's'Little Mermaid' !!(less)

    Community Reviews

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    Hannah Greendale
    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

    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.
    Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
    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 ...more
    Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    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.
    Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: arc, fiction
    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:


    - mesmerizing language
    - wonderful description
    - immersive setting
    Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
    Keeping in mind the name of the book, this is the rough experience of me reading it:
    10% --- hm, super curious. No mermaid, no Mrs Hancock. What is to come of this?
    20% --- yes. The mermaid. Still no Mrs Hancock though. But there are other interesting things going on, so no matter!
    50% --- 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??

    75% --- it seems everything is settled! At least we've got Mrs Hancock no
    Video review here:
    An impressive novel set in 1780s London that reflects on class, prostitution (in various forms), and desire. The best thing about it is the sentence-by-sentence writing, which is incredibly poised and nuanced (especially for a debut novelist). The settings are richly imagined and atmospheric, and the characters are wonderful (especially Angelica Neal, a vivacious escort who finds her glory days coming to a close). But I can't help thinki
    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.

    Ova Incekaraoglu
    This is by far the best read of the year for me so far and will be an all-time favourite. Click here for the full review

    Astonishing storytelling and highly atmospheric, surprising to believe it's a debut novel. Has a few flaws here and there but I loved it so much wouldn't let anyone say anything nasty about this book!

    The story is set in late 1700's London. Mr Hancock, a wealthy merchant, acquires a mermaid unwillingly to compensate a loss in trade. Although he considers himself no showman, he i
    Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
    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.
    Peter Boyle
    Jonah Hancock, a widowed merchant, lives a lonely life in a dark Deptford house, with only his young niece Sukie for company. His world is flipped upside down when one of his ship's captains returns from a voyage with a "mermaid" in tow (really a monkey's torso with a fishtail attached, but nobody seems the wiser). Hancock puts this specimen on show and becomes the talk of London, making a tidy sum of money in the process. The exhibition also causes him to cross paths with Angelica Neal, a fetch ...more
    Eric Anderson
    Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    What a joy it was reading this novel! And I'm so glad I purposely saved it as the last book to read from The Women's Prize longlist. I had a hunch it'd be a pleasurable and immersive story and it was. It's the kind of book I was eager to get back to every time I had to put it down which is something I can't say about some other literary novels no matter how clever or interesting they are. Given how much I enjoyed reading both Imogen Hermes Gowar's debut novel and “The Parentations” I'm beginning ...more
    One of my favourite books of the year!
    Umut Rados
    Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    This post will be me raving about how good this book was! It’s the best book I’ve read this year so far, and probably one of my all time favourites. For full review, please visit my blog:
    First, let me put a disclaimer. If you don’t enjoy slow moving books and character driven stories, maybe this is not for you. Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is a historical fiction that has mesmerising language, amazing atmospheric setting, lots of metaphors and character build
    Gumble's Yard
    UPDATE: I said in my review that the book had a strong chance of success in the Women's Prize, it was subsequently longlisted and has now made the shortlist

    I spent much of the second half of 2017 and early 2018 reading experimental fiction: the Goldsmith shortlist; various books I had anticipated making that list; each of the Republic of Consciousness Prize longlist at least twice; a number of other books submitted for that prize; other books from the wonderful small presses that I discovered th
    Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: britain, 2018-read
    Nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018
    The German version of this book is published by Bastei in its division “Bastei Entertainment” – and the book is entertaining indeed! First-time novelist Imogen Hermes Gowar takes the reader to 18th century London with a tale about the ambivalent relation between ambition and happiness. When Jonah Hancock, a humble merchant, is presented with a dead mermaid by one of his captains, he decides to first put the corpse on display and later sell it, thu
    Shawn Mooney
    Feb 18, 2018 marked it as did-not-finish
    I listened to about 20% of this on audio, wonderfully narrated by Juliet Stevenson, so wonderfully that it took me that long to conclude I was listening to a well-written piece of fluff, the literary equivalent of a Disney movie.
    Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
    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
    Roger Brunyate
    Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Three books, each different, but mostly quite good

    Apparently, this debut novel was the subject of a bidding war between British publishers and became the most eagerly awaited new fiction of the season. It deserves such interest. Imogen Hermes Gowar’s writing ranges from good to excellent, and her feeling for the late eighteenth century period is quite acute and often great fun. I shall quote one of the more ribald passages later (in a spoiler, in deference to sensitive eyes). Here, though, is a
    Find all my book reviews, plus fascinating author interviews, exclusive guest posts and book extracts, on my blog:

    The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is notable for its cast of memorable female characters. There’s Angelica, the beautiful, capricious, independent-minded courtesan who’s unfortunately insufficiently financially independent not to be in need of a new protector. There’s the procuress to high society and Angelica’s erstwhile employer, Mrs Chappell, a
    Nov 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
    Shelves: netgalley, historical
    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
    MaryannC.Book Fiend
    A book I savoured, that is why it took a little while to read I didn't want rush through it. Sometimes bawdy and a little naughty.
    Dannii Elle
    May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Actual rating 4.5/5 stars. Review to follow.
    image: Mermaids

    Visit the locations in the novel
    1700s London

    Merchants, mystery and mermaids....what’s not to like!? Now, this book is not as focused on the mermaid as you might think from the blurb but take the mermaid as a mystery in the background which draws the world of traders and courtesans together then you have the full focus of a historically intriguing read.

    The author has a knack for evoking London of the 1700s. The ships in the dock, the stench of the streets, the glamour of the courtesans, th
    Kate Neilan
    May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
    Utterly bewitching, completely charming, deeply moving. This beautifully written novel is everything I could have hoped for. Bravo!
    Noelia Alonso
    May 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
    Shelves: read-in-2018
    This book is well-written, I enjoyed the setting and the atmosphere of the story. Gowar does tackle some interesting topics but ultimately this book did not meet my expectations. I didn't hate it but I also didn't love it - I was just disappointed with it. The plot and pacing were its main problems but there were other issues as well. This story takes too long to get to the point and then, the conclusion feels rushed - too rushed for my liking - and not all characters and subplots are handled we ...more
    Vivek Tejuja
    Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    The year is 1785 and merchant Jonah Hancock has to cope with the tragic news that one of his captains has sold his ship in exchange for a mermaid. Sounds intriguing, isn’t it? I was sold at this premise. But wait a minute. There is more to this story which is more fascinating to me. The side story of Angelica Neal that quickly comes to fore. Neal is London’s most beautiful courtesan who wants to marry rich and secure a future for herself. And who better than Mr. Hancock who has a mermaid to be p ...more
    This remarkable debut, set in the mid 1780s, brings Georgian London alive, or at least those parts of it that make their living, or take their pleasure, in its fashionable 'nunneries' or brothels. Merchant Mr Hancock has fallen in love with probably the most beautiful courtesan of them all and for her he will do anything, even if it means finding her a mermaid. This is beautiful prose, witty and elegant, and the character portraits are gorgeous. Mostly historical fiction, with a touch of fantasy ...more
    Respecto a la narrativa debo decir que este libro se asemeja más a un clásico literario que a un libro escrito recientemente, la escritura de la autora se centra mucho en las descripciones y su forma de narrar en mi caso hizo que me costase algo más engancharme a la trama.

    La historia en general está entretenida y con cierto grado de curiosidad mantiene al lector más o menos expectante dependiendo del momento, eso sí en mi caso esperaba algo diferente y aunque lo he disfrutado no ha sido lo que i
    Renita D'Silva
    Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Beautifully written. An absolutely wonderful and original story
    Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it
    Recommends it for: fans of the Essex Serpent and Harlots (Hulu TV show)
    3.5 stars

    The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 for the longest time. I'm always eager to read historical fiction set in 18th century England, I kept seeing it everywhere and I'm not going to lie, the cover is absolutely stunning (and I'm not even going to talk about the naked hardback because I have no words * heart eyes *).

    I adored Imogen Hermes Gowar's writing style, The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock was one of the most beautifully written books I have read
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    Imogen studied Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History at UEA’s Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts before going on to work in museums. She began to write small pieces of fiction inspired by the artefacts she worked with and around, and in 2013 won the Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholarship to study for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA.

    She won the Curtis Brown Prize for her dissertation, which grew
    More about Imogen Hermes Gowar
    “The stories are of men who, walking on the shore, hear sweet voices far away, see a soft white back turned to them, and - heedless of looming clouds and creaking winds - forget their children's hands and the click of their wives' needles, all for the sake of the half-seen face behind a tumble of gale-tossed greenish hair.” 10 likes
    “As to her education..." says Angelica.
    "'Tis done," says Mrs Lippard. "Her school could do no more for her."
    "I learned nothing," growls Sukie.
    "You read every book they had."
    "If I had known there were so few, I would have read slower.”
    More quotes…