Book Review: The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

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I’ve just finished reading The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar. It was an interesting read that combined history and the everyday with magic in a way that was believable and tangible. If you love reading historical fiction and love the idea of folklore or magic, then you’ll enjoy this one a lot.

Here are the things that I loved about this read, and some parts I didn’t.

The historical detail is on point

The descriptions of the setting, the character’s own inner monologue, and the exploration into the attitude of people towards mermaids were all completely accurate. There wasn’t a moment when I thought ‘that wouldn’t happen like that’ or ‘that shouldn’t be there’. Everything from walking down the street, to the types of food they ate, to the difference in houses and locations were so accurate it was impressive.

The language adds to the scenery

The way this book is written may put some people off but I promise you it really ‘makes’ the book. It did take me a while to get used to it but once I did, I was completely absorbed in the story. Its interesting because in a way, you feel like you are living in that time again. The way certain characters speak, and the way they describe certain places and situations makes it feel like you are there with them, taking it all in. Without this language, I think the book would lack dimension.

The magic is believable

Magic is very difficult to write because it seems that we have lost the ability to see whimsy in our everyday life. So when someone writes about magic, they really need to blend it with the everyday, and make it tangible, in order to be believable. The elements of magic that were in the story were blended so well, I had no reason to doubt what was being told to me. That’s when you know you’re reading a good book.

An interesting peek into 18th Century London

The 18th century was a time of change and upheaval. Values and rules were shifting and changing according to the attitudes of the people. Imogen paints this period really well, showing the visual details of the beautiful French-style streets, the flowing pastel gowns, and the glossy jellies that the people would’ve eaten. The way she communicates the characters is not only believable, but immersive. You really feel like you’re in the mind of a 1700s woman as she goes through this unbelievable journey. Even the attitudes of the people in this location at this time is so well written that you feel as though you have lived through this time too. If you’re wanting to learn more about 18th Century history, then this book is perfect.

The typeface and cover art is beautiful

What initially drew me to purchase this book was the cover art. I loved picking it up each day to read, or seeing it sit on my shelf. The design just fits so well with the story line. A good cover goes a long way! The typeface within is also stunning, and historically accurate too. I love layers of meaning so this definitely got me excited to read it. Also, when a typeface is off putting, it can really distract you when you’re reading. In some cases, I’ve given books away with a bad typeface because it was too annoying to read. This typeface will make reading easy, and reinforce the time period in your mind.

It took a while to hook me in

I’ve read books that hook you in instantly, almost on the second page. They’re the kind of books that you can sit there for hours on end, flipping from page to page without noticing the time go past.

This is not one of those books. Imogen’s language is quite flowery and at time can be difficult to understand. As I said, I liked that she did this because it really immersed you in the time period, but, if you’re expecting this to be an easy read then you will likely find it difficult to get into. Release your expectations when you purchase this book and enjoy the slow pace.

There are a lot of subplots

I didn’t really expect there to be so many subplots in this novel. Until about halfway, the two main plots are split pretty evenly, but towards the end it becomes a bit confusing. I felt like I was trying to read faster to get back to the parts centred on the main characters. I think because of this, the ending felt a bit rushed and didn’t go into enough detail on the character’s dynamic.

Overall, I think you’ll love picking up this read as well! It takes a long time to find a novel that is rich in historical detail, accurate, and portrays the magic of the world in a way that is believable and non dismissive.

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