Fiction, Historical, Magical realism, NetGalley

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar Mermaids, Merchants And Courtesans... In A Book

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, when you first read its name, conjures up a certain magic, which only intensifies when you look at the cover. Which is why I absolutely did not know what to expect from this book! So let’s see what it’s all about!

It’s the autumn of 1785, England, and we are introduced to quite a few characters. One of them is Mr Hancock, a widower, a lonely merchant. The other is a very wilful courtesan, on the bring of serious trouble. There are more characters, aside from these, but what brings them all together is… well, you could say, a mermaid. The characters’ lives intertwine without much logical reason, much as life normally does, and things go on from there. What will become of the mermaid? Or the merchant? What becomes of the courtesan, on her way to ruin?

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.

This book is interesting in the way that you don’t really know whether you should interpret some parts of the story as real, and thus it’s magical realism, or if it’s just intended as a symbol for emotional experiences. Which actually makes it very captivating! It’s both very real and very unreal at the same time, colorfully written and contrasting. I kept wanting to come back to the book even despite the lack of a quick pace or big developments.

As for the plot in The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock – there is one, but it’s definitely not in the foreground, and it doesn’t lead anywhere in particular. In part, it’s situational, in part, it also displays actions and effects of certain situations, or just follows lives. The beautiful writing works well in this situation, as does the historical setting and interesting facts about the time period. The book also has really amazing secondary characters, and you will be just as invested in the developments of their lives as in those of the main characters.

However, if you are looking for fantasy, action or magic, you will not find it in The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. It is a very slow going book, so if you do not enjoy that kind of reading, this is not for you.

The theme of this book seems to be that sorrow and grief will not disappear if you do not let it go yourself, if you do not release the pain. And even if you think you are undeserving, you can still have happiness. I truly liked this story, and if you love slow-going historical books, then I’m sure you will enjoy this one too.

I thank Random House UK / Vintage Publishing / Harvill Secker for giving me a copy of the book in exchange to my honest opinion. You can buy the book here at Book Depository and buying using this link supports the blog.

Have you read The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, or heard about it? Do you like slow-going books?

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

This is on my tbr so this is a very interesting review to read. Thanks!

Lilyn George
3 years ago

I liked the way you marked out how you were feeling at the percentages.
This does not sound like a book I would like AT ALL. LOL.

JJ @ This Dark Material

Lovely review, Evelina! This sounds like the kind of book I either love or hate. Some of your other reviewed books lately have sounded so good, I’m thinking I’ll have to give this one a try too 🙂

Olivia Roach
3 years ago

This one sounds like it is really a magical realism kind of novel, in the way that it can be hard to perceive or entirely figure out what is going on. I kind of have a love hate relationship with magical realism… but I have a head-over-heels in love feeling with mermaids in novels which pulls me toward the novel. I’m kind of mixed on this one… not sure it is one for me. Hmm >.>

3 years ago

Great Review!! This sounds like a beautiful and emotional book ! Going to have to look this one up 😉

Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy

I’ve been curious about this book, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! But how funny that the title is misleading. I’ve read books like that and sometimes they are great, but not always. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Mridula Gupta
3 years ago

Adding this to my TBR. Great review 🙂

3 years ago

I’ve seen this around a lot so thank you for reviewing! Still doesn’t seem like my kinda book but I do love the cover!

Stephanie Jane
3 years ago

I think this looks like the sort of book I would really enjoy. I don’t mind a lack of action if the characters are convincing. And that cover is gorgeous. I’ll probably wait for the hype to fade before reading it though!

3 years ago

The synopsis sounds so intriguing, the idea behind this book is definitely unique. Even though it’s a slow-paced story I still want to read it after your review 🙂

Daniela Ark
3 years ago

ha I love how this book kept you guessing 🙂 I love magical realism LOVE IT!

Sophia Rose
3 years ago

It sounds like one that I’d have to be in just the right mood to appreciate. I think the possibility of magical realism or just magical writing is a big draw.

Loved your review, Avalinah!

3 years ago

I have not read a book from the magic realism in ages now. I will check this out and your GIFs are spot on. <3

Alexis Kami
3 years ago

Usually I didn’t like slow going books, and I never heard about this book before, but seems really interesting.
Love the GIF! XD

Sim @ Flipping Through the Pages

This book seems interesting in the way you have presented it But generally I don’t like slow book.. they are really hard to get past

Sophie @ Blame Chocolate

This sure sounds like a very weird little book but as soon as you said “magical realism” I understood why hahaha
It definitely gives me that vibe but it’s probably not for me as I don’t care much for slow books or ones that leave me completely confused from start to finish xD
Glad you were able to enjoy it somewhat, and that is had a nice message to it. Great review!

Lashaan Balasingam
3 years ago

I’ve never heard of this book before, but man your reading experience sounds soooo mysterious hahah

Also love the sound of the theme of this book too. I don’t read too many books tagged as magical realism but I’m glad to hear how unique this one was for you. What made you want to pick it up?

Amanda @Cover2CoverMom

Oooo I’ve been waiting to read a review of this one. Slow moving books don’t put me off as long as I am in the right mood, so I think I shall give this one a go.


[…] Colored Glasses were really nice books and I can recommend them both. Read the review for The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock here and as for Rosie Colored Glasses, I will be reviewing it in February, closer to when it comes […]


[…] when you’re struggling with insomnia (which is precisely why it was my bedtime reading!) The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock is a new released that you’ve all heard about by now, and it was a steady good read that I […]