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The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

A Novel
Written by: Imogen Hermes Gowar
Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
Length: 17 hrs and 19 mins
4.2 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction

“Wonderful...completely transporting.” (Madeline Miller, New York Times best-selling author of Circe and The Song of Achilles)

"Historical fiction at its finest, combining myth and legend with the brutal realities of the past.... Comparisons will be drawn to the works of contemporary authors Sarah Waters and Michael Faber...but The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock has more in common with the novels of Dickens and Austen." (Irish Times) 

In 1780s London, a prosperous merchant finds his quiet life upended when he unexpectedly receives a most unusual creature - and meets a most extraordinary woman - in this much-lauded, atmospheric debut that examines our capacity for wonder, obsession, and desire with all the magnetism, originality, and literary magic of The Essex Serpent.

One September evening in 1785, Jonah Hancock hears an urgent knocking on his front door near the docks of London. The captain of one of Jonah’s trading vessels is waiting eagerly on the front step, bearing shocking news. On a voyage to the Far East, he sold Jonah’s ship for something rare and far more precious: a mermaid. Jonah is stunned - the object the captain presents him is brown and wizened, as small as an infant, with vicious teeth and claws, and a torso that ends in the tail of a fish. It is also dead.

As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlors and brothels, all of London is curious to see this marvel in Jonah Hancock’s possession. Thrust from his ordinary existence, somber Jonah finds himself moving from the city’s seedy underbelly to the finest drawing rooms of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of the coquettish Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on - and a shrewd courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting sparks a perilous liaison that steers both their lives onto a dangerous new course as they come to realize that priceless things often come at the greatest cost.

Imogen Hermes Gowar, Britain’s most-heralded new literary talent, makes her debut with this spellbinding novel of a merchant, a mermaid, and a madam - an unforgettable confection that explores obsession, wonder, and the deepest desires of the heart with bawdy wit, intrigue, and a touch of magic.

©2017 Imogen Hermes Gowar (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A every entertaining story

The narrator was well suited to the story and the story transported me to another time.

1 person found this helpful

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  • J
  • 2020-04-01

Beatifully written, exquisitely narrated

The author has captured perfectly, the language and life of the eighteenth century. The story is intriquing and Juliet Stevenson’s narration, as always, is perfection.

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  • SD
  • 2019-11-01

Unfinished and unedited

This story comes off as a draft copy. There are storylines that meander and fizzle out without contributing to the main plot. Where was the editor??? It certainly isn't cooked enough. I persisted because of the hype and reviews. Unfortunately, I wasted both my time and money. The plotline is predictable and the characters are insipid. Juliet Stevenson's narration elevates the story beyond what it deserves.

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A weird mix of historical fiction and fantasy

I quite enjoyed this audio book. It was very well read and atmospheric. There were interesting (and racy) parts, but overall, it missed the mark for me. I found the characters somewhat engaging, but the fantasy element seemed like an 'add on' and didn't really fit with the rest of the story. There was no lead up to a 'magical' element so when it happened, I didn't buy in.

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Excellent story. Excellent research

I loved this book. The author’s love of the period is evident. Very interesting vignettes of women’s lives. Highly enjoyable

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Amazing writing, wonderful narration

I don’t normally write reviews but this book is such a gem! And Juliet Stevenson’s narration is Oscar worthy! This strange yet beguiling story hooked me from the start (thanks to Ms Stevenson) and I found myself fully immersed in the characters. The writer has an incredible way with words that made me smile and laugh on many an occasion. She seems to find just the right description to bring even the smallest details to life. And yet the story also had a poignancy and humanity that was totally enthralling.

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Beautifully Woven Tale

‘The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock’ reads as familiar as a treasured favorite with all the pleasure of not knowing how it ends. Wonderfully narrated, I loved the audiobook. Now I need it in hard copy, so ‘The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock’ can take its place with other oft read classics on my shelves.

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An amazing new book

A wonderful story and storyteller, how can you go wrong? You won’t be disappointed I highly recommend it

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • SD
  • 2019-05-25

Disjointed and undeveloped

It strikes me that this story suffers from lack of a good editor. The writing comes off as an early draft: the plot lines either leap around or fizzle out, character's are superficial, events are contrived , and concludes abruptly with questionable resolution. Overall, an incredibly disconnected "story". Juliet Stevenson's wonderful narration heightens an underbaked tale.