'A cracking historical novel – with a twinge of the surreal – about passion and obsession' The Times
SHORLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2018
One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock finds one of his captains waiting eagerly on his doorstep. 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, where he meets 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.
What will be the cost of their ambitions? And will they be able to escape the legendary destructive power a mermaid is said to possess?
"A cracking historical novel – with a twinge of the surreal – about passion and obsession, dreams and reality... The story is by turns intriguing, touching, funny, sad and heartwarming. It will make you laugh and it may make you cry. Mostly, though, the cast of endlessly engaging characters will keep you turning the pages until you get to the wholly satisfying ending... The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock is superb."
"From the first page of this dazzling debut novel, you are pitched into a sumptuously detailed adventure set in the bustle and swagger of 18th century London… The result is a wonderfully written and richly descriptive novel, its brilliantly drawn characters driven by heady and dangerous desires.*****"
"Roll up, roll up, a true wonder is on display: a mermaid magicked out of words. The author of this debut set in Georgian London gulled me, by the zest of her writing and sustained authorial slight of hand, into forgetting for a second that they do not exist... Imogen Hermes Gowar delights in the feminine fakery of mermaids, but as a writer she is the real deal."
"Hotly anticipated... a bold, sumptuous doorstopper... Gowar has created a dazzlingly original novel, full of heady pleasures and shot through with the kind of irreverent humour you might expect to find in Georgian London. She’s succeeded in creating a fully-realised world that you want to get lost in. But what’s most refreshing is that she gives all the best lines to women."
"A marvellous, high-energy, inventive romp through Georgian society. Rich in delicious period detail and written with a wickedly observant eye, the path of this unlikely romance leads down some unexpected byways to give a fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable reading treat."
"Historical fiction at its finest… Early as it is in the year to be predicting Booker nominations, if debuts feature as prominently as they did on last year’s longlist, this will surely merit consideration."
"The bustling, bawdy world of 18th-century London [is] expertly evoked in Imogen Hermes Gowar’s The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. This is undoubtedly the start of a major career for this young writer."
"Like the recent historical-fiction hits Franics Spufford’s Golden Hill, Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent and Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist, this is a novel pungent in historical detail"
"A brilliantly plotted story of mermaids, madams and intrigue in 1780s London and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it become the Essex Serpent of 2018."
"It’s now the fate of new historical novels to be hyped as ‘the next Essex Serpent’ … The good news is that Imogen Hermes Gowar’s sparkling debut more than merits the comparison... Pure storytelling pleasure."