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The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  650 Ratings  ·  176 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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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)

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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: fiction, arc
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
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.

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
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.
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
One of my favourite books of the year!
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
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
Nov 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: historical, netgalley
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
Gumble's Yard
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Now longlisted for the 2018 Women's Prize.

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 through the prize. Fiction that was brilliant but still often demanding of the reader.

It is therefore a great pleasu
Rebecca Rouillard
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Following in the footsteps of 'The Miniaturist' and 'The Essex Serpent', 'The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock' sits firmly in the category of lush historical fiction. (I did buy the hardback as the cover design is stunning.) The story is set in Georgian London but explores the lives of characters that are not usually in the spotlight - courtesans, immigrants, people of mixed-race, merchants, and of course, mermaids. Jonah Hancock is a comfortably-established merchant and widower who lives under the thum ...more
Nicola Clingham
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
‘The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock’ was advertised to fans of ‘The Miniaturist’, ‘Golden Hill’ and ‘The Essex Serpent’, so I jumped at the chance to read it and this book definitely did not disappoint.

The novel is set in the 18th century and follows a number of plot threads: these include the merchant Mr Hancock trying to make his fortune and attempting to dazzle the public with his rare find; an ex-courtesan and widow at the turning point in her life; and the young courtesan who takes a risk for a b
Adiba Jaigirdar
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was super excited about this book because - okay - I love mermaids. Who doesn't, though? And for about the first half of the book, I was intrigued enough to enjoy the story and the characters. But the more I read, the less I enjoyed it, the less I was intrigued by it, the less I wanted to keep reading.

Don't get me wrong. There is so much to praise about this book. Starting with the wonderful prose and ending with the crafting of some very interesting characters.

If I'm honest, after putting th
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
I hardly know what to think about this. It is strikingly and gorgeously written; the evocation of 18th century London is brilliant and there are so many extraordinary characters here. For a debut writer Imogen Hermes Gower has worked miracles. But I’m unconvinced by the magical realist shift in tone in the last fifth of the novel. It feels like it belongs to a different book, and has a cast of characters from a parallel universe. The Jonah Hancock and Angelica Neal we have got to know flicker in ...more
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A visual feast for the eyes, this book. Quite aside from the gorgeous cover, this equally gorgeous book served up rich characterwork, a fascinating story and a world that you wanted to dive into. Yes, I loved it- and quite right too.
Set in Georgian England, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock focusses mainly on the stories of two people, Mr Hancock, a lonely man fast approaching fifty, and Angelica Neal, a courtesan who is past her prime and trying to stay afloat after the death of her most recent benef
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’d heard lots of great things about The Mermaid & Mrs Hancock & when I saw an early copy available in Waterstones, I couldn’t resist! Historical fiction is my favourite genre so it was right up my street. And it really didn’t disappoint!

The Mermaid is so wonderfully descriptive, I felt completely immersed in life in 1785. The characters are delightful. Despite my taking an initial dislike to Angelica, I found myself warming to her & loved her by the end.

If you’re a fan of The Essex
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Set in the England (close to London) of 1785-1786, this story infuses elements of a historic setting and magic spinning a believable tale. Here Mr. Handcock acquires a mermaid by chance and it becomes the talk of the town. Alongside this, we get to know more about the life of a courtesan, Angelica Neal and the environment she is a part of.

This book dwells more into the society and setting of the 1700s. We follow Mr. Handcock’s journey after acquiring this creature. There is more to the story th
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Immerse yourself in the story of London at the end of the 18th century. Find the place where everything seems possible, where, at one point, you may be at the bottom of the social ladder, and already in the next one, town could be under your feet. What can happen when you are in a city like that while one of the most mystical creatures, a subject of so many unexplained legends, is in your hands!?

Late one evening, while someone knocks on his door, Mr Hancock, a humble merchant and a widower, sure
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The year is 1785 and merchant John Hancock is sat quietly at home when there is an urgent knocking on his door. Stood on the threshold is the Captain of one of his ships with the news that he has sold it in exchange for a dead mermaid.

Hancock is somewhat baffled and bemused wondering what an earth he can do with a dead mermaid. Persuaded to show his mermaid, his unlikely exhibit begins to garner notoriety and fame and before long Hancock is immersed in the less salubrious side of London society.
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Imogen Hermes Gowar studied Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History before going on to work in museums. She began to write fiction inspired by the artefacts she worked with, and in 2013 won the Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholarship to study for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock was a finalist in the MsLexia First Novel Competition and shortlisted for the inaugural Deb ...more
More about Imogen Hermes Gowar...

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“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…