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The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock: the absolutely spellbinding Sunday Times top ten bestselling historical fiction phenomenon

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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. 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. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.Where will their ambitions lead? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess? In this spell-binding story of curiosity and obsession, Imogen Hermes Gowar has created an unforgettable jewel of a novel, filled to the brim with intelligence, heart and wit.


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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. 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. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.Where will their ambitions lead? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess? In this spell-binding story of curiosity and obsession, Imogen Hermes Gowar has created an unforgettable jewel of a novel, filled to the brim with intelligence, heart and wit.

30 review for The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock: the absolutely spellbinding Sunday Times top ten bestselling historical fiction phenomenon

  1. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    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: Pros: - mesmerizing language - wonderful description - immersive setting - 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: Pros: - mesmerizing language - wonderful description - immersive setting - unpredictable plot Cons: - glacial pacing - characters - meandering plot. This is one of the most beautifully written books I have read this year. Imogen Hermes Gowar has a brilliant way with words and I love how immersive her setting is. I could picture every single thing she describes, from the shipyards, to the brothels, to the houses of the rich and the houses of the merchants, to the parks and alleys. The dresses and the way people looked came alive in her description and this made for a vivid reading experience. However, the pacing was glacial and the plot meandering. Told in third person from numerous perspectives, I am quite unsure what the main story was supposed to be. (Jonah Hancock and his niece and sister and their relationships are one focus of this work, Angelica Neal and her confidante another, her relationship with another suitor the third, Mrs Chappell and her prostitutes another, then there is a the subplot of Polly, one of Mrs Chappell’s black prostitutes and how she is treated for being such, then the search for another mermaid and so on and so forth.) While plenty of these perspectives could have been interesting we often did not spend enough time with these people for them to come alive. The two main protagonists, Jonah and Angelica, also stayed undefined for me. Especially Angelica was hard to root for in the first half of the book, although she did grow on me in the end. I wish the plotting had been tighter or (and I cannot believe I am saying this about a 500-page long book) the book longer. I would have liked more closure on some of these storylines (especially Polly’s!). Ultimately, what will stick with me is the unbelievably beautiful writing. While long stretches were excruciatingly boring there was never a moment where Imogen Hermes Gowar was not in perfect command of her language. This alone is enough for me to be excited about what she will do next. I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Harvill Secker in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    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. 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Beata

    What a surprise! What a discovery! The novel is truly amazing regarding the plot and the language. I felt like I was reading a book written in the 18th century. The period details, tea bowls and coffee shops among others, are marvellous, which does not surprise as the Author has worked for several museums. But what really swept me off my feet (sofa) was incorporating a shell-grotto which reminds me of famous Pope's grotto at Twickenham. This novel is simply outstanding! What a surprise! What a discovery! The novel is truly amazing regarding the plot and the language. I felt like I was reading a book written in the 18th century. The period details, tea bowls and coffee shops among others, are marvellous, which does not surprise as the Author has worked for several museums. But what really swept me off my feet (sofa) was incorporating a shell-grotto which reminds me of famous Pope's grotto at Twickenham. This novel is simply outstanding!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    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 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 of his ships. A captain of one of his ship's informs him excitedly that he has sold his ship to purchase a 'mermaid', a dead thing with the tail of a fish and the body of a monkey. Initially Hancock feels it is of precious little value only to find he is mistaken and off the mark. There are widespread rumours and curiosity for the weird 'mermaid' and people are willing to pay to see it. Hancock finds himself in a scenario he never expected to be in, he comes to enter a wider society and connects with elements of London he has no experience of. He meets the most famous courtesan in London, Angelica Neal, and an unconventional romance blossoms between the odd couple. However, their path to true love is littered with obstacles. It is said that the power of mermaids is to destroy, but is this so? The role and magic of the mermaid becomes central closer to end of the novel. Gowar's prose is beautiful, overflowing with wonderful descriptions and rich period details. London is evoked brilliantly with its changes in society, the theatres, the brothels, the coffee houses, the villainy, the dangers, the dirt and the stench. This is not a perfect book by any stretch of the imagination, but I loved reading it, finding myself immersed in the world created by Gowar. A great read! Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    ‘’Somewhere a tide is turning. In that place where no land can be seen, where horizon to horizon is spanned by shifting twinkling faithless water, a wave humps it back and turns over with a sigh, and sends its salted whispering to Mr Hancock’s ear.’’ London, 1785. Swiftly, we are let in two very different worlds that are about to be united under extraordinary circumstances. Mr Hancock, a moderately wealthy merchant, has acquired a marvellous creature. Angelica Neal is an accomplished courtesa ‘’Somewhere a tide is turning. In that place where no land can be seen, where horizon to horizon is spanned by shifting twinkling faithless water, a wave humps it back and turns over with a sigh, and sends its salted whispering to Mr Hancock’s ear.’’ London, 1785. Swiftly, we are let in two very different worlds that are about to be united under extraordinary circumstances. Mr Hancock, a moderately wealthy merchant, has acquired a marvellous creature. Angelica Neal is an accomplished courtesan that has come to admire his new possession. And what may that be? Well, a mermaid! And now, they are thrown into a series of dubious choices, chances and hopes in the opulent city and the peaceful countryside. ‘’We fill their minds even when we are far away. They fancy they see us even when they do not. They tell one another stories about us.’’ Imogen Hermes Gowar creates a very special example of Historical Fiction. Beyond the magnificent depiction of 18th century London, beyond our vivid transportation to the world of the courtesans and the merchants, two professions that seem to look for wonders, taking every chance that comes their way, beyond the need for love, she connects the elusive legendary figure of the Mermaid to the ‘’icon’’ of the beautiful, desired women. Both are sought after, tirelessly wanted. Once someone is fortunate enough to ‘’possess’’ them - literally, mind you - they become creatures to be put in a cage for profit. The Mermaid brings money. The Woman brings earthly pleasure but must ‘’belong’’ to one man only. Even if he is a scoundrel and a liar. ‘’A loss is not a void.’’ Imogen Hermes Gowar populates her beautiful story with fascinating characters. Good and bad, most of them grey. Real, tangible, easy to identify in all societies. But the main duo is a true force. Angelica’s spirit seems to mirror Hancock’s calm and need for a life with meaning. Her unafraid attitude to stand for herself against men and women who want to exploit and diminish her reflects his decision to abandon his microcosm and see all anew. They both make mistakes - who doesn’t? - and learn from them under the ever-watchful eye of the Mermaid. The element of Magical Realism is cleverly and uniquely used to advance the story, walking side-by-side with very human, very familiar emotions and obstacles. And this is how an extraordinary novel is born. ‘’I am here; I am here; you are not alone. Here I am; I am grief, the living child of your suffering. I am the grief that sits within you; I am the grief that sits between you. You will bury me but I shall rise up. You will not know me, but I shall make myself known to you.’’ My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Richard (on hiatus)

    The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock, the debut novel by Imogen Hermes Gowar is set in London in the year 1785. Mr Hancock is a mild mannered widower and moderately successful merchant. As the novel opens he’s very worried. His ship, with full cargo, has not returned from a trading voyage. After a long, tense period of waiting there is a knock on the door. His ship’s captain, in a state of great excitement explains that the ship is no more. In his travels about the globe Captain Tysoe Jones made the dram The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock, the debut novel by Imogen Hermes Gowar is set in London in the year 1785. Mr Hancock is a mild mannered widower and moderately successful merchant. As the novel opens he’s very worried. His ship, with full cargo, has not returned from a trading voyage. After a long, tense period of waiting there is a knock on the door. His ship’s captain, in a state of great excitement explains that the ship is no more. In his travels about the globe Captain Tysoe Jones made the dramatic decision to sell the vessel to raise money for an extraordinary purchase - the desiccated, twisted, frightening remains of a mermaid! This amazing curio, never before seen, will surely make Mr Hancock’s fortune - so agues the Captain. Mr Hancock is extremely sceptical and extremely angry, but without any other options, decides to make the best of a bad job and attempts to raise money through this strange and otherworldly object. The scene is set for a picturesque romp through the teeming wharves, poverty stricken alleyways, gentrified squares and quaint rural areas, all of which we now know as inner London! The sights, sounds and smells of the time roll off the page. The theme of mermaids and how they lure sailors onto the rocks seems to chime with the plight of some of the women in the novel who, in these deeply misogynistic times, use their femininity to lure men to gain influence, riches or simply to survive. Angelica Neal the grand but fickle courtesan is a wonderfully flawed and nuanced character and a key player in the story. Part gritty and realistic, part whimsical and magical, this story of eighteenth century life is well told. There are touching moments, lots of humour, some beautifully colourful writing and characters that I became attached to. The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock is a long novel and the story meanders a little, but once I entered its finely wrought world I didn’t want to leave.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    This was my pick for the September 2018 Book of the Month box! DNF @ Page 149/496 “Its appearance is unbeautiful. It is not what people expect of a mermaid.” Friends, life is just too short to read books that feel like a chore. On top of racist comments, use of slurs for Romani people, questionable antisemitic speech, slut shaming, and other gross things because of “historical accuracy!” Miss me with all that, please. And the last chapter I finished (14) literally had a questionable or This was my pick for the September 2018 Book of the Month box! DNF @ Page 149/496 “Its appearance is unbeautiful. It is not what people expect of a mermaid.” Friends, life is just too short to read books that feel like a chore. On top of racist comments, use of slurs for Romani people, questionable antisemitic speech, slut shaming, and other gross things because of “historical accuracy!” Miss me with all that, please. And the last chapter I finished (14) literally had a questionable orgy going on so that men could fulfill their fantasy of having sex with mermaids. Life is too short, friends. Way too short. But this is a book set in 1785 London, where a merchant named Mr. Hancock receives a dead mermaid. Said dead mermaid is shown at local exhibit and the entire country goes wild over it. I didn’t get far enough to actually see who becomes the new Mrs. Hancock, but I pity her anyway. I will say that this book probably does get better, because it was shortlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018, but I just can’t keep reading this. I hope if you pick this one up that you’ll have more enjoyment than I did. Happy reading, friends. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Youtube | Twitch Buddy read with Destiny at readingmydestiny! ❤

  9. 5 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    What a wonderful, whimsical book! I admit I found this novel very daunting because of its size and because of its plot which has to do with mermaids and is in addition historical fiction. For that reason, I was hesitant to pick it up, and I let it stay put on my bookshelves for several weeks. One day, however, I decided it was time to read it, and from the very first chapters I knew that this was not at all the daunting story I was expecting. Instead, it started out with the most intriguing plot What a wonderful, whimsical book! I admit I found this novel very daunting because of its size and because of its plot which has to do with mermaids and is in addition historical fiction. For that reason, I was hesitant to pick it up, and I let it stay put on my bookshelves for several weeks. One day, however, I decided it was time to read it, and from the very first chapters I knew that this was not at all the daunting story I was expecting. Instead, it started out with the most intriguing plot, written in a perfectly accessible language, that had me want to keep going and not put down this novel. “The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock” is about Mr Hancock who is one day told by one of his hired captains, that the captain has sold his ship in trade for a mermaid. What is one to do with a mermaid? That is was Mr Hancock sets out to find out. Meanwhile, we follow Angelica who works in a whorehouse and has no scrupples when it comes to men and her own reputation. The mermaid in this book serves more as a gateway to the lives of Mr Hancock and Angelica, so that the mermaid - who is actually the focal point of the story - is also put very much in the background throughout most of the novel. I loved the character development in this beautifully crafted book. I loved how it was written in a way that convinced you it was set in the 1700s, but at the same time it has some scenes that are so candid and honest that you can’t help but be surprised and enthralled. “The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock” is one of those books that had so many memorable scenes in it that, at one point, I had to stop my reading and write them down. I am still perplexed at how much this book took me by surprise, and I believe that it is a beautifully crafted and whimsical story from beginning till end.

  10. 4 out of 5

    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 Hancoc 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 now. Never you mind that mermaid. But what could still happen? 85% --- err, okay. Well at least the name works out. Kind of wish it didn't though... #feels 91% --- oh... again, did not expect this. Although it's a nope from me. Y U do dis, characters?? You could just be happy instead, maybe?? 100% --- right. Alright. I can settle on that. Read the rest of the review and my thoughts on it here on my blog. Read Post on My Blog | My Bookstagram | Bookish Twitter

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    4 lyrical stars to The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock! 🧜‍♀️ 🧜‍♀️ 🧜‍♀️ 🧜‍♀️ In 1780s London, Jonah Hancock is a merchant and owns a ship. A captain knocks on his door urgently with the news he’s sold Hancock’s ship in return for a mermaid. Word of the mermaid spreads quickly like sensational things do, and everyone wants to lay eyes on the sight. This mermaid is the key to Hancock climbing into high society, and that he does, with speed. It is at a most prestigious party that Hancock meets the alluring 4 lyrical stars to The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock! 🧜‍♀️ 🧜‍♀️ 🧜‍♀️ 🧜‍♀️ In 1780s London, Jonah Hancock is a merchant and owns a ship. A captain knocks on his door urgently with the news he’s sold Hancock’s ship in return for a mermaid. Word of the mermaid spreads quickly like sensational things do, and everyone wants to lay eyes on the sight. This mermaid is the key to Hancock climbing into high society, and that he does, with speed. It is at a most prestigious party that Hancock meets the alluring Angelica Neal. Two ambitious minds have now collided, and their futures are full of intrigue. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is a big, larger-than-life, smart story. It spotlights those strange curiosities of the time and is full of atmosphere. The writing is lyrical and stunning setting up a vivid sense of time and place. I found it immersive and all-consuming. You should know there is not as much true magic or fantasy in the story as one might think, given the title, and the fact that a mermaid is most definitely present (but in the background). The story goes far beyond the oddity, including how humans are always grappling for more: more stature and wealth, more attention. It ends on a magnificent note, and I was most satisfied with the story from start to finish! Thanks to Harper for the electronic ARC. I also purchased a hard copy from Book of the Month. All opinions are my own. My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    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. Jo 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. Jonah was a little dull in character, and felt as though he was severally lacking in any emotional depth (and backbone). Angelica, our courtesan, in comparison is scatty and all over the place. I wasn't keen on her characterization either, as she felt so different to Jonah, and I couldn't really understand her interest in him at all. The pace is agonizingly slow, and the romance takes a long time to develop. I understand that the constraints of the time meant a romance of this nature would be upheld with trepidation and many longing glances - but unfortunately I felt it meandered too much before anything really happens. The ending, although it took a long time to get to, also left a lot of loose story lines which annoyed me. I really didn't get what I expected out of this unfortunately. If it was targeted more as a historical romance it would perhaps find a better audience.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ova - Excuse My Reading

    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 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 is tempted to display the mermaid in hopes of making some money.  His mermaid becomes an attraction soon enough and a 'madam', Mrs Chappell, seizes the opportunity making him an offer to display the creature for a week in her own establishment. As you can imagine, this is a brothel and Mr Hancock meets the beautiful, practical but no-so-calculated courtesan, Angelica Neal.  Angelica is 27- only a few years before she loses her teeth, or gets gray hair,  no longer desirable enough to be kept. She has been recently abandoned by a 'keeper' and looking for another one. Although she looks like a free woman from outside, unlike the mermaids floating in the sea freely, Angelica is imprisoned in the society depending on men for her living, in company of women like Mrs Chappell. Forget your dignity. You can discover it again when you have made your fortune. As for disdain, there's no place for it here. This world elevates the industrious man, and if you are canny it will elevate you. Disdain! Dignity! I never heard such squabbles. says Mrs Chappell to one of the courtesans. The girls she spoke to, described as silent as mules in response. Inhuman. Creature-like. There is the magical creature in this novel, yes, but what Gowar also does is to portray humans as creatures of interminable wants and needs, always hungrily, selfishly seeking comfort,  material or emotional. There are a lot of metaphors in the book, but not much magical realism really, except just towards the end it is quite a solid and realistic story. It's difficult to classify but I wouldn't call this book a work of fantasy or magical realism. The mermaids, being hunted, displayed, imprisoned, forms a strong subtext of human's cruelty to other creatures in this story- I couldn't stop thinking about the imprisoned Dolphins while reading- just for the desire of owning, or entertainment. Also the imprisoned mermaid sending waves of grief is a breathtaking metaphor of a kept woman (wife or courtesan), which deeply effected me and is one of the reasons I would classify this as an all-time-favourite read, despite the little flaws. (It's a debut, so let's forget about Polly and her little stream of story line in this deep ocean of 500 pages) LOVED the ending and will be looking out for the next novel from Imogen Hermes Gowar.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    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 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 author's writing style is admittedly lovely, and does a very good job of evoking the era, the places and the characters depicted. However, even the writing rang a bit hollow to me at times - it was a bit like a courtesan's glamour, all frothy, pretty little turns of phrase which cleverly disguised the lack of any underlying substance. The premise of the whole book is based around the relationship that kindles between one of London's most famous courtesans and a staid middle-aged merchant, and the mermaid that unexpectedly enters the latter's possession. A note to any fans of fantasy (like me) who are tempted to pick this book up because the mention of a mermaid intrigues you: don't. The mermaid barely features, and the elements of magical realism are severely underused in general; they only really have an effect on the last 20% or so of the book, and barely at that, fizzling into nothing in the last few pages. I also found it almost impossible to connect with any of the characters in this novel. While I was pleased by how many of the characters were women, I'm utterly sick of fiction in which women are constantly at each other's throats. Meanwhile, the two main characters' romance was surprisingly tolerable, and one quiet scene between them early in their relationship was actually one of my favourite scenes in the whole novel, but I found both of the characters themselves unbearably insipid. The narrative also dipped into the side characters' stories fairly often, almost randomly, and in most cases without any satisfying resolution. I actually found several of the side characters more interesting than the main characters - Sukie and Polly were probably my favourites, and I hated how neither of them got any real narrative resolution. In fact, the entire plot just kind of ambled along with no real drive or cohesion throughout the whole book. Finally, the book seemed to be trying to make a point about women's place in society, but utterly unable to actually figure out what that point might be, and it was even clumsier when trying to comment on historical race relations, which made a couple of scenes downright uncomfortable to read. All in all, not my cup of tea at all, and not a book I'll be recommending.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    I cannot decide how I feel about this unusual book! It’s a historical novel - with a dash of the surreal. It’s about passion and obsession, and about what happens when your obsession is met! The time is 1785, and merchant Jonah Hancock finds one of his captains on his doorstep.......he has sold Jonah's ship for what appears to be a mermaid. As gossip spreads through the city everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s curio! When his mermaid comes to the attention of brothel (bawd) owner Mrs Chappell, Jon I cannot decide how I feel about this unusual book! It’s a historical novel - with a dash of the surreal. It’s about passion and obsession, and about what happens when your obsession is met! The time is 1785, and merchant Jonah Hancock finds one of his captains on his doorstep.......he has sold Jonah's ship for what appears to be a mermaid. As gossip spreads through the city everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s curio! When his mermaid comes to the attention of brothel (bawd) owner Mrs Chappell, Jonah is swept into a world of courtesans and high society. But this new found fame does not sit comfortably with Jonah. At one particular debouched party he meets courtesan Angelica Neal and his life takes a very different path. The period details was amazing throughout the book, but I felt the story did meander and occasionally fell flat at times. Overall I am very glad I read it but still wavering between a 3.5 and 4 stars.

  17. 4 out of 5

    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 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 fetching courtesan who is at something of a loose end. Hancock is immediately smitten, Angelica less so, but their encounter sets in motion a sequence of events that neither of them could have expected. What I enjoyed most about this novel is the convincing atmosphere it creates. 1780s London is wonderfully imagined, from the clatter of carriages on the cobbled streets to the stench of chamber pots emptied onto unsuspecting bystanders. Hermes Gowar's command of the period's vernacular adds greatly to this - comely jades recline on sophas, clothed in the finest silk mantuas and bringing sweet millefruits to their lips. But there is a real lack of drive to the narrative. Much as I revelled in the sumptuous period detail, the plot seemed quite aimless to me. I couldn't really understand what the novel was trying to achieve. Does it see itself as a bustling historical romp or an unlikely romance of two mismatched souls? The characters themselves don't seem to know what they really want. And there is a sub-plot involving a black prostitute which is so half-baked, it might have been better to omit altogether. The book has been unanimously praised and was recently longlisted for the prestigious Women's Prize for Fiction. I relished the convincing Georgian world it created but I can't help feeling a little disappointed at the meandering story. Nevertheless, it is an engaging, evocative debut and I look forward to whatever the talented Imogen Hermes Gowar does next.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Lee

    This is NOT a happy mermaid tale, despite the beautiful, rich cover. I usually LOVE mermaid tales, depressing or not... The book was loooonnngggg. It is written historically (the 1700s), and at some points, I had no idea what was going on because of the outdated language/time period. Hats off to the author for her extensive research, but I have none of that knowledge and am not going to be constantly researching while reading for leisure. There were certain things brought up over and over like me This is NOT a happy mermaid tale, despite the beautiful, rich cover. I usually LOVE mermaid tales, depressing or not... The book was loooonnngggg. It is written historically (the 1700s), and at some points, I had no idea what was going on because of the outdated language/time period. Hats off to the author for her extensive research, but I have none of that knowledge and am not going to be constantly researching while reading for leisure. There were certain things brought up over and over like mermaids and soot that I was so confused about...either I missed a page or I just didn't see the connection. The details around certain scenarios would be in full (mind blowing full) detail, but what the heck actually went on or how it was done, was highly overshadowed with details on the scenery, and just left you to accept this is how it is. I asked myself so many times "how did this come to be, did I miss something?" You know when someone sees a vision for something and not everyone can see it? Well, that's how I felt with this book, with me not seeing the vision. There were a lot of sad depressing points to this book, that maybe that vibe just got to me. I felt bored, generally blah and sad while reading this. Just like the mermaids in the story! Haha! That's my reasoning for 2 stars only. Don't get me wrong there were parts of the story I liked... The relationships were interesting... Old pure nunneries and all the white in those old dirty times... The expansive details on the scenery... A lot of the txt was really intriguing, just as a whole plot, I felt 2 stars. Much gratitude to the publisher and author for the paperback ARC I won via the Goodreads Giveaway Program (2018). I was under no obligation to write a review, my honest opinion is freely given.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    I could not get into this book, and I almost DNF this book many times. I wish I did DNF this book because There was nothing I liked about the book it at the end of finishing it. (*)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)

    Video review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luHZE... 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 Video review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luHZE... 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 thinking that ultimately The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is less than the sum of its parts, largely due to poor plotting and pacing. (Thank you to Harvill Secker for a GORGEOUS copy of this book)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, a historical novel set in 1780s London, follows Jonah Hancock, a merchant who finds himself in possession of a mermaid, and Angelica Neal, a courtesan whose protector has recently died. Their narratives intersect rather early on, and the novel mostly follows their relationship over a rather meandering 500 pages. From the very first page, I wanted to love this book. I was struck instantly by Imogen Hermes Gowar's prose, which is some of the best I think I've ever read The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, a historical novel set in 1780s London, follows Jonah Hancock, a merchant who finds himself in possession of a mermaid, and Angelica Neal, a courtesan whose protector has recently died. Their narratives intersect rather early on, and the novel mostly follows their relationship over a rather meandering 500 pages. From the very first page, I wanted to love this book. I was struck instantly by Imogen Hermes Gowar's prose, which is some of the best I think I've ever read in a contemporary novel. It's poised, elegant, classical and lyrical all at once, with some of the most evocative setting descriptions I've ever read. Gowar brings the late 1700s to life in a way that I wouldn't dare to minimize as I go on to discuss this novel's flaws. But I would be remiss not to mention that the pace and plotting were downright maddening. This is one of those books where nothing happens for 450 pages, and then everything happens in the last 50. It's uneven, and for me, it wasn't engaging enough to hold my attention throughout. Characters and their motivations also remained at arm's length, with a questionable third person omniscient point of view which gave absolutely no rhyme or reason for its head hopping, following not only Jonah and Angelica, but a handful of other characters whose narratives were never fully developed. One of these characters in particular was Polly, a black courtesan whose storyline had absolutely no depth or insight or closure or anything remotely satisfying to read. Again, I don't want to downplay what an accomplishment Gowar's writing is. If your main draw to a novel is rich, gorgeous prose, then I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this. But if you're looking for tight plotting and compelling characters, I can't say that either of those is a real strength of this novel. Thank you to Harper and Imogen Hermes Gowar for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

      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   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 safer sample, with a nicely-judged sprinkling of period detail, but not so much as to disturb the rolling cadence of the prose: Angelica has not spent a Christmas with any of her blood since whe was a girl of thirteen; in her maturity she has gone wherever she is summoned and admired, to be herself as much a part of the festivities as the gilded gingerbread or the riotous song. Thus she continues to perceive the celebrations in many ways as a child would: a hazy whirl of frumenty, hunt the thimble, plum pie, blind man's buff and scorch-cased chestnuts: endless laughter and no anxiety; she expects to light every candle and dance beyond sunset, but not a moment of expense or resentment. So full marks for style; what about content? As its title suggests, the novel tells of how Mr. Jonah Hancock, a widowed Deptford shipping merchant, obtains a mummified mermaid, makes a lot of money exhibiting it, and presumably acquires another Mrs. Hancock. The "mermaid," at least in the first part of the book, is not a fancy. A quick web search will turn up a number of dessicated creatures that, whether freaks or fakes, could well have attracted much interest in a society easily wowed by curiosities. And so it is here. After showing the creature privately for some weeks, Mr. Hancock accepts an offer from the leading London madam of the time, a certain Mrs. Chappell, to make his mermaid the centerpiece of a grand gala attended by le beau mode, for she is very well connected. And the young woman designated to look after him that night is the lovely Angelica Neal, whose previous protector, a Duke no less, has just died. All right, the direction of the plot may seem pretty obvious, but be assured: Ms. Gowar is by no means as straightforward as all that. Some 18th-century "mermaids" But the author's long road to her goal was also my problem. The novel is divided into three volumes of around 175 pages each. The first, more or less as I’ve just described, is thoroughly enthralling. The second, though, gave me real problems. Both Hancock and the mermaid virtually disappear, and the focus is almost entirely on Mrs. Chappell and Angelica. Personally, I found it distinctly less interesting in terms of the plot, with a lot of irrelevancies and loose ends. But then this also coincided with a bunch of extra work that suddenly landed in my lap, and I could no longer keep up my pace. It might have been different had I been able to read with the same lightness of spirit that Gowar herself obviously enjoys, in penning passages such this description of Mrs. Chappell relieving herself in her carriage (nothing of plot significance here; the spoiler is only for modesty): (view spoiler)[Mrs Chappell's bordaloue is made from fine white porcelain with dragons rampant about its rim. She has a great abundance of skirts and petticoats so that it is almost impossible to discover her legs beneath them; above her garters, Mrs Chappell's thighs are vast and dimpled as dough, and faintly mauve. "They each went out in search of an affaire du coeur, and it is no accident that they found one another," she huffs, heaving herself up so as to accommodate the vessel against her coarse and greying cauliflower. Her legs brace upon the boards and she trembles with the effort; she plucks with small fat hands at her skirts as they subside over her knees, and the sound of her pissing fills the carriage. (hide spoiler)] Lightness of spirit, however, is not at all what I would say of the third volume. Hancock acquires a second mermaid, by no means a desiccated manikin like the first, but something indescribable, a presence rather than a tangible reality. It casts a pall over all who come near it, and a depression over the whole novel. The added depth in the character portrayal was, I suppose, a plus. But I question whether the three volumes really hold together, and if the almost Gothic air of the third belongs with the brilliant action of the first or the social exposé of the second. Hence my four-star rating. Still, this is a book that gives you more than you bargain for, and it is mostly worth the hype.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    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 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 through the prize. Fiction that was brilliant but still often demanding of the reader. It is therefore a great pleasure to find a book that, while still excellently written is instead generous to the reader, one that simply weaves a good, old-fashioned story around a great command of language and evocative period detail, one that seamlessly weaves bawdy descriptions and dialogue (particularly in the first part), alongside the harsh realities of prostitution (even if it is high class prostitution) and female servitude (particularly in the second part), with a deeply affecting and melancholic third part. This story set in London and its outskirts (particularly Deptford) in 1785, starts with a merchant, ship owner and childless widower John Hancock finding that one of his captains has sold one of his ships for the apparent dead body of a goblin-like mermaid. Initially convinced he faces ruin Hancock decides to exhibit it as a marvel in a local coffee house, to his surprise to great success and is then persuaded by a high class madam – Mrs Chappell - to allow her to exhibit the mermaid alongside her girls. At the first evening she asks one of her ex-girls, Angelica Neal, a courtesan whose Duke-lover recently died without remembering her in his will, to entertain Hancock, only for Hancock, despite being smitten with Angelica, to flee when he realises the explicit nature of the other entertainments laid on at the party. The second part of the book mainly traces the fortunes of Angelica and those around her, fortunes which turn rapidly against her and from which she is rescued by marriage to Mr Hancock (who responding to some teasing of hers, becomes obsessed with finding another mermaid for her). To his astonishment he succeeds but, the third part of the book, turns to fantasy as the mermaid turns out to be ephemeral if bewitching when viewed, but to be deeply affecting emotionally, infecting those around it with a deep lying sense of ennui and loss. Another strong part of the book is the number of very strong female side-characters it develops – Bel Fortescue (Angelica’s best friend who succeeds in marrying her own upper class lover), Hancock’s niece Sukie, Mrs Chappell herself, Polly a mulatto in Mrs Chappell’s group of girls, Mrs Frost (Neal’s housekeeper, seemingly full of disapproval of Angelica’s lifestyle but who is all the time learning and developing what it would take to set up her own house of girls) – interestingly many, particularly Bel and Polly drift away from the story (or more accurately the story drifts away from them) but stay in the readers mind as fully formed characters. I suspect that this strong group of characters give this book a good chance of success with the Women’s Prize for fiction and already it must be a strong contender for next year’s Costa First Novel Prize. Overall a really enjoyable read – just what I needed and has set me up nicely for a return to the more experimental end of literature.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    I have been intending to read this ever since it was shortlisted for last year's Women's Prize for Fiction. It is undoubtedly readable and entertaining, and there is plenty of convincing 18th century detail, but for me the central premise was just not credible enough to justify such a long book. I have been intending to read this ever since it was shortlisted for last year's Women's Prize for Fiction. It is undoubtedly readable and entertaining, and there is plenty of convincing 18th century detail, but for me the central premise was just not credible enough to justify such a long book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    If you ever happen to catch a mermaid, beware of her powers. She can lure you into the depths of the sea or make you believe that she can give you all happiness you desire or just as easily drive you insane. Mr Hancock's mermaid transformed his life in every possible way, and this glimmering, sea water smelling, green, gold and turquoise jewellery box of a novel put my life on hold too, in between all the easter family obligations. I must admit the exquisite cover and a recommendation from Madel If you ever happen to catch a mermaid, beware of her powers. She can lure you into the depths of the sea or make you believe that she can give you all happiness you desire or just as easily drive you insane. Mr Hancock's mermaid transformed his life in every possible way, and this glimmering, sea water smelling, green, gold and turquoise jewellery box of a novel put my life on hold too, in between all the easter family obligations. I must admit the exquisite cover and a recommendation from Madeline Miller played no small part in my spontaneous choice of this read and I am not disappointed. It is not really a fantasy novel. Apart from a mermaid it is firmly set in eighteenth century London. The main protagonist, Mr Hancock is a sea merchant from Deptford. The novel opens when a friend of Mr Hancock’s and the captains of one of his vessels returns home and announces that he has exchanged the ship and its cargo for a sea mermaid.... An ownership of a mermaid, that quickly becomes a sensation, casts Mr Hancock, who is a rather insignificant middle aged man, and a widower of proper old fashioned values and a kind heart, into a world of opportunities and dangers that he hardly imagined existed. A world that is ruled by tempting, deceiving but very human creatures who not unlike their mythical counterparts will stop at nothing in order to achieve their goals and who will use their charm to mislead and misdirect. But heart and true nature is a central concept in this beautiful novel and whatever deceiving disguise the characters might wear, their true nature will sooner or later be revealed. Even mermaids, heartless and only interested in following their own purposes, can become vulnerable like the rest of us. It's a charming, beautifully written feel good story that I very much enjoyed. It made me an exceptionally happy (easter?) bunny, and I want to recommend it to all of you that would like to escape reality for a while.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    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 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 to think my favourite kind of historical fiction has a dash of the supernatural mixed in with it. Although, to be honest, “The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock” is almost entirely firmly grounded in reality. The mermaid element comes to stand for something more emotional and rooted in the real world later in the novel. It's primarily the story of a widower businessman whose livelihood is at stake when his merchant vessel is unwittingly traded away and a high society escort/prostitute named Angelica Neal who is reentering her trade after the death of a duke that kept her and left her nothing. Their stories collide in a richly imagined version of late-18th century London with its bawdy houses of ill repute and emerging middle class neighbourhoods. Read my full review of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar on LonesomeReader

  27. 4 out of 5

    TL

    I recieved this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. All my opinons are my own. ---- Writing: 4 stars Characters: 4 stars Plot/Pacing: Strong first two acts, not so strong last act. For the most part I did enjoy this(life stuff kept me from reading it quick) but the last part had me bored at times and my eyes glazing over. I thought it a bit weaker than the first two parts and not as engaging... I found myself skimming some after page 410. This is the type where you'll either love I recieved this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. All my opinons are my own. ---- Writing: 4 stars Characters: 4 stars Plot/Pacing: Strong first two acts, not so strong last act. For the most part I did enjoy this(life stuff kept me from reading it quick) but the last part had me bored at times and my eyes glazing over. I thought it a bit weaker than the first two parts and not as engaging... I found myself skimming some after page 410. This is the type where you'll either love it or hate it most likely so take a look for yourself and see:).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Book of the Month

    Why I love it by Brianna Goodman If your first thought upon seeing this book was a story starring a redheaded woman with a tail, let me clear the air: This is not one of those mermaid tales. The magical creature that haunts these pages is small, clawed, and, most importantly, dead. And yet, it is this small curiosity that brings together an unlikely cast of characters at the heart of this transporting novel set in 18th-century London: shady brothel keepers, corrupt politicians, and the lonely, hum Why I love it by Brianna Goodman If your first thought upon seeing this book was a story starring a redheaded woman with a tail, let me clear the air: This is not one of those mermaid tales. The magical creature that haunts these pages is small, clawed, and, most importantly, dead. And yet, it is this small curiosity that brings together an unlikely cast of characters at the heart of this transporting novel set in 18th-century London: shady brothel keepers, corrupt politicians, and the lonely, humble merchant thrust into this unfamiliar world. When a mermaid falls unexpectedly into Jonah Hancock’s hands, he decides to parade it about the country in exchange for fame and fortune. From intellectual coffeehouses to high-class brothels, Hancock and his unusual possession travel throughout London, seizing the notice of a host of remarkable characters, including Angelica Neal, a savvy coquette on the lookout for a way out of her unsavory profession. If you’re looking for a luxurious and ambitious read to sink into for the fall, this book is for you. With the embellished writing of a Jane Austen-era classic, this rags-to-riches story is as well-crafted as it is entertaining. The historical details are expertly rendered, the characters are full of heart, and while the supernatural creature that kicks off this novel might be dead, this is one imaginative story that is full of life. Read more at: https://www.bookofthemonth.com/the-me...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    I really thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing was fantastic, the historical detail wonderful, and the main plot genuinely lovely in many ways. I thought the charactisation was really superb too. I probably could have done with a little less of the 'mermaid' subplot, and there was one other subplot I would have liked to see more resolved, but overall this is such a strong novel and one I'd highly recommend. I really thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing was fantastic, the historical detail wonderful, and the main plot genuinely lovely in many ways. I thought the charactisation was really superb too. I probably could have done with a little less of the 'mermaid' subplot, and there was one other subplot I would have liked to see more resolved, but overall this is such a strong novel and one I'd highly recommend.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)

    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.

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