After months of anticipation and buzz surrounding Imogen Hermes Gowar’s debut novel was released on the 25th January of 2018. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock had been causing much commotion in the bookish world before its release and it was received with praise by readers.
But many people may still be wondering about what this book is about, and why was it so hyped up by several bookish and non-bookish magazines during the last months of 2017. This article will, hopefully, provide some answers to those questions.
What is it about?
Gowar’s debut novel follows an eighteenth-century merchant named Jonah Hancock who wakes up one morning to a captain of one of his ships knocking on his front door. The captain has come to inform Jonah that he has sold one of the Hancock ships for what looks like a mermaid.
This piece of uncanny news causes much commotion in this town, and everyone — from people working at the docks, coffee shop frequenters, parlour owners and brothel customers — is talking about it. Where is this mermaid? What does she look like? How did they capture her?
As Jonah Hancock’s life does a 180 turn and changes completely, so does he routine. He abandons his usual day-to-day life to spend time at places where he’s never been and get to know people he had never had to opportunity to talk to. This leads him through the door of high society, and at a splendorous party he meets Angelica Neal — the most coveted courtesan woman he has ever laid his eye on.
Jonah Hancock is not the same man after he meets this dazzling woman, and both their lives change their course immediately. Down this new untraveled road, they will learn that great, priceless things came at a cost that can’t be overlooked.
Behind all these changes is one single mermaid, and the destructive power she is said to possess will be put to trial.
Who is the author?
Imogen Hermes Gowar is a recently published novelist with an Archeology, Anthropology and Art History degree. Her first pieces of writing were inspired by the artefacts she was surrounded by at her job in a museum. She won the Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholarship in 2013 to do an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.
Her debut novel, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock published by Penguin in January of 2018, was a finalist in the MsLexia First Novel Competition and was shortlisted for the inaugural Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers’ Award.
When asked about why she had chosen to write about eighteenth-century, Georgian London, the author says she’s always been very interested in this time period:
“I would always read biographies of women from the period who I really admired. People like Emma Hamilton and the actress Dora Jordan who’s mostly forgotten to history now but was super famous and extraordinary in her day. I already loved the period and felt comfortable with it. I think it’s pretty stylish and beautiful, their sense of humor also really appealed to me when I was researching.”
Her love for Georgian London is so big that she partnered with Waterstones on the day of her novel’s release to show people around her favorite spots and tell them a little more about London back in the day.
To celebrate the publication of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock today, we asked the brilliant @girlhermes to take us on a tour of London and tell us about its Georgian past – contains brothels, public humiliation and a scotch egg. Discover the book: https://t.co/LtHZqYlKVP pic.twitter.com/Z5qckhlfLO
— Waterstones (@Waterstones) January 25, 2018
What were people’s reactions to the book?
The novel was met with much excitement by readers in the United Kingdom and already has an average rating of four stars on Goodreads, having been read by 209 people so far.
The most highlighted characteristics of the book have been the wonderful, lyrical writing style, the detailed development of every character, and how well documented Georgian London is.
Today, I’m mainly persuading people to read Imogen Hermes Gowar’s wonderful The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. pic.twitter.com/wMgvvekxJF
— Blackwell’s Oxford (@blackwelloxford) January 31, 2018
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock is excellent, according to my mother-in-law, who is probably the fiercest critic I know https://t.co/EV0HU4DGVB
— Robbie Millen (@RobbieTimes) January 29, 2018