Imogen Hermes Gowar – The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock


Book 12 out of 16 from the Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2018

Just as I suspected, the success of the rather amazing The Essex Serpent   would lead to other books which touch upon the same subject and, although, I will not say that The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is not a copycat book, it does share the same traits.

First of all the novel takes place in Britain during the late 1700’s, three years shy of the French revolution. The writing style harks back to that era but with a slightly modern twist and both books contain a love triangle cause by a mythical beast, who has a maguffin-like role.

The plot itself is simple; a merchant, Mr. Hancock receives a stuffed mermaid and loans it to  the head of a brothel in order to display it. On the night of the celebration he meets the Madame’s best prostitute Angelica. After a misunderstanding Angelica chases another man but at the same time asks Mr. Hancock to bring her a real mermaid, as the book progresses Angelica and Mr. Hancock’s relationship becomes intricate until the thrilling conclusion.

Despite the similarities The Mermaid… is an enjoyable read. At times it is bawdy but there’s a sense of fun and verve running through the writing and although there is a slow build, the second and third parts of the book are rewarding. It’s a light read but a good.

Other book reviews on the Women’s Prize of Fiction Longlist 2018:

Nicola Barker – H(A)PPY

Jennifer Egan – Manhattan Beach

Jessie Greengrass – Sight

Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Meena Kandasamy – When I Hit You

Fiona Mozley – Elmet

Arundhati Roy – The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Sarah Schmidt – See What I have Done

Rachel Seiffert – A Boy in Winter

Kamila Shamsie – Home Fire

Jesmyn Ward – Sing, Unburied, Sing.