The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar – A Review 

Via Netgalley – Publication date Jan 2018.

When you know, you know, and I knew within the first chapter of this book that it was going to be one of the best books I’ve read this year. I wasn’t wrong.  I requested this one for review through Netgalley having seen it talked about on a couple of my favourite Booktube channels, and luckily I was accepted.

This story is set in Georgian England and follows Jonah Hancock who is a merchant and a widower having lost his wife during childbirth, along with the son she gave birth to.  He owns ships which transport goods and artefacts to various different places.  His business is turned on its head when one of his ships captains decides to sell the ship he’s sailing on in order to buy a mermaid for Mr Hancock to display as an item of curiosity and earn revenue from it in the coffee houses, brothels and anywhere else that will exhibit it.

This mermaid is the catalyst for the meeting of Mr Hancock and one Angelica Neal who is a courtisan of great standing previously under the tutelage of ‘bawd’ Mrs Chappell. The mermaid also opens doors for Jonah within high society and shows him a new way of life.

The relationship between Angelica and Jonah is tested by the capture of this so called Mermaid and there are definite threads of ‘be careful what you wish for’ running through their story and their developing relationship.

Quite often you find that a really outstanding book leans either to having a twisty turny attention grabbing plot OR great characters and character development but not often both together and thats fine, but one of the great positives of this book for me (of which there are many) is that this book is both rich in plot and depth of characters.

The story line is so engrossing and my god the characters just leap off the page! They are so well developed and stunningly written I felt as if I was watching them play out the various scenes right in front of me. They are colourful, brimming with life, sometimes vile, sometimes very easy to dislike but always, always engaging.

Another really enjoyable element of this book for me was all of the Georgian detail. I’m usually a Victorian period lover but I’ve now had my eyes opened. This book makes you want to go and research that era (as indeed the author must have spent countless hours doing judging by the minute finer detail). I found it totally fascinating. Particularly the class system, the social ‘season’ and the Georgian interest in curios and anything out of the ordinary or beyond the realms of science.

This book left me so invested in the characters that I feel I now need to know what has become of them. I need them back in my life!

I’m loathe to make a comparison of any book but this one put me strongly in mind of The Crimson Petal And The White by Michel Faber which incidently is one of my favourite books ever. Both books are beautifully detailed with such richly written characters with so much depth.

If you’re a Crimson Petal fan you will surely love this book. An absolutely bewitching debut novel which will stay with me for a long time and which I will certainly be urging everyone to read when it’s published early next year.

A definite 5 star read.

5 thoughts on “The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar – A Review 

  1. As I work my way thru the archive I decided not to comment too much as we’re talking about books you read nearly 2 years ago but I have to make an exception for this one!

    I too thought it was brilliant, especially as I love all things Georgian. Also being a London cabby the setting was very evocative as well, I still think about the shops that Angelica visited in Berkeley Square as I drive round it and I know the Deptford and Blackheath areas well. Think Jonah’s house was based on houses in Albury St – GoogleEarth it.

    The only things I found a bit incongruous were the fate of the bawd and the black girl who kind of drifted out of the story!

    Other than that a definite 5 star read.


      1. Yes if I had an all time top 10 this would definitely be on it. I like dark historical fiction too, I’d recommend a few titles but I expect they’ll turn up further up the archive.


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