Thursday, 25 January 2018
Review - The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
A very atmospheric and enthralling historical novel about a man who seeks to fill the emptiness in his life with wonder and beauty, which almost becomes his downfall.
Jonah Hancock is a middle aged widower, an 18th century merchant and not taken to flights of fancy. He could be said to be staid and unimaginative. But when he is offered a chance to accrue riches beyond his dreams by gambling his fortunes on the ownership of a curiosity, a strange thing found on a fated sea voyage which he is assured is that mythical beast - a mermaid, he acts out of character and sets in motion a series of events which ARE about to change his life, just perhaps not in the way he could have imagined.
Persuaded that the way to recoup any losses invested in this awful and frightening denizen of the deep is to display it in public, eventually brings onto his radar the beautiful and capricious Angelica, a courtesan of some repute, her shallowness and flightiness is the opposite of his dull, ponderous nature yet opposites attract for many reasons and the pair are destined to become a mismatched couple. But the mermaid which brought them together may be the very thing which rips them apart and becomes an obsession which can only lead to heartache for one or both of them.
It is a story of relationships and greed, loneliness and desperation and the lengths people can be pushed to. It is a character driven story and those characters are not wholly likeable, they develop and change so much a complete metamorphosis of their natures takes place which is a little hard to come to grips with, but understandable when you appreciate their circumstances.
This book is not quite what I expected, the characters are quite flawed and entirely disparate, yet the story is a compelling one, although it does drag quite slowly in the middle it meanders and rambles and eventually gets us to where we want to be.
Nevertheless, it is very descriptive and engaging and for anyone who enjoys a historical tale with a difference this is a great read.
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?
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