When I saw that Imogen Hermes Gowar was on the shortlist with her Georgian romp of a novel The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock, I have to admit that my stomach did a little flip. As I mentioned in my previous post I read this book back in 2017 just before its publication and adored it. In fact I gave it a 5 star rating.
As I’ve already read and reviewed the book, I thought I’d refresh my memory a little, by both dipping into the book again and re-reading my previous review. I have inserted the original review below and will give you some updated thoughts…..
‘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’.
So there we have it, those were my thoughts back in 2017. Having refreshed myself I can genuinely say that I wholeheartedly agree with my 2017 self and still have all the same thoughts about this wonderful book. I can now also say that as time has gone on this book hasn’t faded one bit in my mind and I still get all the same feelings when I think about it. Whenever I see someone post anything on Twitter or Instagram about it, I find myself getting a little jealous that they still have the reading experience ahead of them.
It is the true test of a good book when you can revisit it and still have all the same thoughts and feelings. I would have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending this book (and have done, lots!) and I think that Imogen Hermes Gowar is very deserving of her place on the shortlist.
My next review will be Elmet by Fiona Mozley, coming soon!
Please do go and check out the other guys blogs, links can be found in one of my previous posts here .
Also check out the @Youngwriteraward twitter account and see what the discussions are over there. #Youngwritershadow
See you all soon with the next review!
Bookish Chat xx