The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

I seem to have spent quite a lot of my time recently, reading books about the future. One of those reads was The Power by Naomi Alderton, which I’m not going to review on here, it’s had so much coverage already – all I would say is that the ending made it for me (which doesn’t help those people who are battling through the middle, but that’s the way with some books).

My point is, that I’ve spent so long reading books about a horrific future (did I mention that I read Stephen Kings ‘The Stand’ not that long ago, which he wrote in the 1970’s but which is horribly appropriate now and has lingered like a bad smell in my brain) that picking up this book by Imogen Hermes Gowar was a true relief.

Set in the late 1700’s in London, and centered around a beautiful and famous prostitute and a merchant who comes to own a mermaid, this was as different a book that I could have hoped for. If ever there was a novel which was crying out to be made into a film – this is it. The costumes, the interiors, the London scenes, the mermaid – everything in it lends itself to a wonderfully rich, period blockbuster.

Am going out slightly on a limb here, but many, many moons ago, me and a few friends entertained the idea of becoming escorts. They were always drunken, rather naive conversations, which never came to fruition, but our concept of an escort was very much based on a version of the idea of what the courtesans in this novel are portrayed as. These women were revered, wooed, flattered and celebrated, maybe even respected in a twisted sort of way.

Without giving out any spoilers though, the story is as much about our heroine and her fall from grace as it is about the mermaid. And I don’t doubt that had we ever carried through with our late night conversations, our idealistic image of being an escort would have been similarly destroyed.

It’s not going to change your life, this book, but it will transport you – it’s engaging, intelligent, slightly mystical, wonderfully evocative, funny, sometimes sad and I pretty much enjoyed every word. We all need books like this, with rich characters and immersive writing. Highly recommended.

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