The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

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$16.99  $15.80
Harper Perennial
Publish Date
5.2 X 7.9 X 1.3 inches | 0.85 pounds

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About the Author

Imogen Hermes Gowar studied Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History at UEA's Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts before going on to work in museums. She began to write small pieces of fiction inspired by the artefacts she worked with and around, and in 2013 won the Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholarship to study for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA.

She won the Curtis Brown Prize for her dissertation, which grew into a novel titled The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. An early draft was a finalist in the MsLexia First Novel Competition 2015, and it was also one of three entries shortlisted for the inaugural Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers' Award.

"Wonderful... completely transporting."--Madeline Miller, author of Circe and The Song of Achilles
"Splendid.... One of the delights of this knowingly preposterous story is the dialectic it constructs between the real and the fantastic.... Each quality... infects the other: The real world of 18th-century London seems both lavish and perishable, and the fantastic world of mermaids feels deadly real."--John Vernon, New York Times Book Review
"This glittering debut novel examines every rung of 18th-century London's social ladder with keen wit and in delicious detail."--People
"Set in 18th-century England, with characters you might meet in a Jane Austen novel.... Gowar writes rounded, believable personalities. Her language crackles with ingenuity and grace, and she has an eye for the everyday particulars."--Chicago Tribune
"Gowar's debut delivers... anchored by Angelica, who contains an incredible complexity to her identity as a sex worker, as a wife and as a woman just trying to survive.... Gowar brings her story to life with lush, immersive descriptions."--USA Today
"A fascinating, beautifully written, semi-historical take on mermaid mania, with two complicated human beings at the center of it."--Bustle
"Imogen Hermes Gowar explores eighteenth-century class, race and human curiosity in this brilliantly written novel. The characters are so powerful that overwhelm the story plot. This fairy-tale novel is full of imagination. This debut novel with a lot of romance makes Imogen Hermes Gowar a welcome voice in fiction."--Washington Book Review
"This is, indeed, a kind of fairy tale, one whose splendid combination of myth and reality testifies to Gowar's imagination and talent."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Concerned with the issue of women's freedom, Gowar offers a panoramic view of Georgian society, from its coffeehouses and street life to class distinctions and multicultural populace.... A sumptuous historical feast."--Booklist, starred review
"A historical fantasy in the vein of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell."--BookPage
"Fascinating and funny, this is undoubtedly the start of a major career for this young writer."--Vogue (London)
"There is much to chew on here, and much to savour, presented with wit and showmanship.... The elan of this book is female, from the madams running their girls, to the book's most obvious literary forebear, Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus. Imogen Hermes Gowar is the real deal."--Guardian (London)
"The richness and rhythm of the writing is irresistible."--Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is Missing and Whistle in the Dark
"A swift, rollicking read.... Richly descriptive.... Like the recent historical-fiction hits Francis Spufford's Golden Hill, Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent, and Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist, this is a novel pungent in historical detail."--Sunday Times (London)
"A gripping... study of the intertwined lives of sex workers and high society in Georgian London.... Themes... -- of independence, love, class, death and gender stereotypes -- are skilfully explored here through a late 18th-century lens."--Financial Times (London)
"Absolutely delightful... I read it greedily, savoring the characters' adventures and their wit, resilience and humanity as they contend with the glittering, filthy, dangerous city that was Georgian London. The novel is a well-researched, charming, immensely entertaining read."--Maria McCann, author of As Meat Loves Salt
"A story of obsession and curiosity, this book is all the better for its rich detail, thanks to Hermes Gowar's impeccable research."--Stylist (London)
"From the first page of this dazzling debut novel, you are pitched into a sumptuously detailed adventure set in the bustle and swagger of 18th century London.... The result is a wonderfully written and richly descriptive novel, its brilliantly drawn characters driven by heady and dangerous desires."--Sunday Express (London), 5/5 stars
"A lush Georgian yarn to sink into like a warm bath.... The themes are chewy... never heavy. What this escapade delivers above all is pure storytelling pleasure."--Metro (London), 4/5 stars
"It's hard to believe that this brilliant and sure-footed work is a debut novel. Gowar's feel for the spirit of the period is spot on... with an unsentimental acknowledgment of the harsh entrapments occasioned by gender, class and race; her prose sparkles with sly wit, inviting inevitable comparisons to Jane Austen."--Entertainment Weekly