This book was published by Harper Perennial in September of 2018 and was a Book of the Month pick that same year! I was drawn into the cover and the premise of mermaids when I saw it at the store last fall and felt like I had to buy it!
Synopsis: Via Goodreads
One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.
As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This chance meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, a journey on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost…
Review: I am disappointed to say that this book just did not live up to the hype in my head. It was very well written and Gowar did a fantastic job of integrating the London culture (both high society and lower class), multiple character viewpoints, and the historical time period. One thing that I did like that she did was incorporate snippets of myths and folklore about mermaids in the region. I thought that was really well done and brought more to the fantasy aspect.
But, the rest of the fantasy elements really fell flat for me. Without giving away too many spoilers, there just wasn’t much to the mermaid part of this book. It begins with a tiny infant mermaid that had died in its travels between sailors. It was described as having sharp teeth and claws. This image is true to a lot of folklore, so that was interesting. But after she was brought in, I felt like the story stalled. I really expected more.
My first problem actually happened to be the title. For about 2/3 to 3/4 of the book I was convinced that the title was inaccurate and that it should have been titled The Mermaid and Mr. Hancock because there wasn’t a Mrs. Hancock! I was surprisingly perturbed by this for most of the novel. Once I finished the book, I understood why it was titled as such, but that frustration was too deeply rooted to be let go of.
Gowar wrote this book with the use of multiple perspectives. While this added a roundness to some aspects of the story, it caused others to fall short. Some story lines were never resolved and simply ceased to be discussed. I felt like others were given too much importance that really did not affect the story the way I thought it might.
I think more than anything, my perception of what this book was going to be clouded what it turned out to be. I’m glad to have read it, it was a relaxing and slow read, but I don’t think it is going to be one I hold on to forever.
What did you think of this book? Let me know in the comments!
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