The Mermaid is Beside the Point

the mermaid and mrs. hancock

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

By: Imogen Hermes Gowar

Grade: A-

It seemed like there were a million books about the sea or some creature in it this summer but I knew I wanted to read this one ages ago. It’s an adult novel about a merchant in 1700’s London whose Captain sells his ship for a mermaid corpse. (He takes it a hell of a lot better than most people would by the way.) And how his life intersects with a courtesan trying to manage a better position for herself.

Mermaids and courtesans seemed like a great combination.

The mermaid of course is incidental to the story in the long run. There’s a second one as well that might exist or may not. At one point I kind of read the second mermaid as a sign for depression. You can pretty much think anything  you want about that one and it could very well be real and I was just reading things into it.

That’s the great thing about books.

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is wonderfully written and character driven. Angelica Neal and the other courtesans we meet in the novel are especially interesting. The intricate parties and the business itself everything in here is very detailed but it flows nicely. It’s a big book yet I was never bored.

In fact I thought this was headed one direction and was quiet pleasantly surprised though there is one very violent and painful to read scene. I didn’t particularly like the character but the hypocrisy and the criminality of that scene- especially the police officers looking away- it really made me angry.

I also can’t say Jonah was that interesting. He generally had other people acting for him. I mean the character basically was a sad widow who didn’t really know how to deal with people. But considering how fun some of the other characters inner lives were his point-of-view could suffer in comparison.

If I could explain The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock without giving anything away it’s a book that reminds me of The Crown in some respects. Sometimes you absolutely adore the characters and root for them and other times you’re rolling your eyes and want to punch them. And much like life some people win, some people lose and sometimes no one (good or bad) gets what you think they deserve. But it’s quiet worth the read.

Recommend: Yes. Real or metaphoric mermaids aside and it definitely doesn’t need to be classified as a summer read. Read it whenever.


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