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Book Review - The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

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I enjoyed this book very much. I read it for my library reading group, and the discussion was great fun. It tells the story of two people in London in the late 18th century (1785-6, for those of you who, like me, find the century count confusing). The two people are Mr Jonah Hancock, a merchant, middle-class white man who stumbles upon a mermaid, and Angelica Neal, a high-class prostitute whose benefactor passed away and she must now re-establish herself to make a living.

First of all, I loved Angelica's character. She's both a middle-class born sensible woman who does what she needs to survive and at the same time a petulant, spoilt brat. The matter-of-factness that she (and everyone around her, really) treat prostitution is enthralling in the context of a period-piece but also, of course, jarring and disturbing for me as a modern reader. Generally, the book does a fantastic job getting the reader into the period and atmosphere. I love books that take me to a different place and time, and this one is no exception.

The middle sagged a bit, in my opinion. There's a character, Polly, who I liked and wanted to know more about, but her story is a side-story, and as such, I think it should either had been cut or at least completed because as it is, it's left dangling a bit. And I get that we don't always know what happens to everyone and that not everyone gets a happy ending in real life, but I felt that her story was left in the middle.

I tried something new for this book, and that's tweeting my thoughts and quotes I find interesting or particularly beautiful. The link I've put is to all of them. It went pretty well, although I'm still of the opinion that tweeting is best described, in the words of Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett, as "flicking bread pellets into a black hole". I did, however, find out that Imogen Hermes Gowar, the author, enjoyed writing the metaphors. So, that was fun.

Bottom line: 4.5 out of 5, and only because of the flagging middle. Definitely worth a read, especially if you're into historical fiction.


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