One exquisite novel: The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

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5 stars

Yes, as you can imagine, 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.

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 building. It moves slowly, not action packed at all, but the writing is just beautiful. So, if you picked it up and not a reader of this sort, I’m sorry your 2 stars doesn’t count šŸ™‚

I buddy read this with my bookworm friend Ova, who has a fantastic blog as well. Click here to go and check out her review.

This is a debut novel from Imogen Hermes Gowar, and even from now I see her name on potential lists for Women’s Prize. I just can’t believe it’s a debut novel. She’s so talented, and I can’t wait to read more from her. Luckily, I have a signed copy of the book!!

Our story is set in 18th century England. There are many characters in the book, but our two main ones are Mr Hancock and Angelica Neal. Mr. Hancock is a merchant (and a widower) who has ships. One day, one of his captains come back from a trip and says he sold his ship and got him a dead mermaid in exchange. Angelica Neal is a sophisticated courtesan of the times. Her last ‘protector’,she was living with, dies. And she comes back to London to look for a new ‘protector’. Further down, Mr. Hancock and Angelica Neal’s stories merge, as well as inclusion of other interesting characters. Just to be clear, this is also not a novel with fantastical elements. So, that shouldn’t be the expectation. From the blurb, I can imagine people might think so, but it’s a historical fiction more than anything. Mermaid element is even used to create a metaphoric setting in the end in my opinion.

Now my favourite part. I will rave about the things I loved:

  1. I really enjoyed the atmospheric setting. The story is set in 18th century in England, and I felt I was there. She described the society setting fantastically as well. The problems women face, hypocrisy, how trapped they are in men’s world, racial difficulties which were even worse that time, etc. There are many layers in her setting that I love.
  2. Characters: The main characters in the book are Mr. Hancock and Angelica Neal. But, that’s not all. There are many others who are really interesting, adds to the story, developed very well. But, I can only congratulate the author for how she built the two main characters. As it’s a character driven novel, it was really important.
  3. Beautiful writing: The writing was really exquisite. Very detailed and vivid settings. very deep character building. She portrayed the picture of the society of those times through metaphors and amazing characters so well. I enjoyed every sentence. Also, it was clear there’s a lot of research behind this to display the true features of the times.
  4. Tone of voice: Although it was a slow moving book, I LOVED the tone of voice. It was bright, uplifting and witty. The characters were really interesting and different.

I loved the book, but of course there were gaps to mention as well:

  1. I thought inclusion of some small characters like Bel or Polly didn’t add value to the story much. Also, there was not enough time to go through their stories properly. So, it felt rushed to open and close their chapters. I’d rather she omitted these and made the book shorter. It would be more crisp. There were enough characters to carry the story.
  2. The tone of voice of the book was really bright up until last quarter of the book. At that point, we took a sharp turn dropping the mood and going in a more depressive tone of voice. I found this very sudden, and I wished it was a smoother change.
  3. Lastly, the end felt a bit rushed. I read that people were really surprised and disliked the end. I’m not on that camp. I did like the end because I believe the author tried to symbolise something (I don’t want to spoil it for you!). But, I felt we rushed towards the end because at that point the book was very long anyway. So, I think if there weren’t these little characters that didn’t add much, we could have a smoother transition to the end and take a bit more time there.

Regardless, I really really enjoyed my time reading this book. I actually both read my copy and listened to the audio book. I must say I quite disliked the voice on the audio book (Audible). So, I cannot recommend that, but the book is superb!

I hope you enjoyed this review. Let me know if you read this book, and what you thought, or any other good book you can recommend šŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

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