The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock
by Imogen Hermes Gowar

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Harvill Secker

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 meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“Social commentary stiffens the sinews of this text like whalebone: great questions, such as how women existed without feminism, wrapped up by the sisterhood in voluble debate, rolled out in priceless diversions. Their voices, Gowar’s prose, the audible hallmark of her sterling work. She has the just phrase for every mood in this mercurial world, from the adjectivally plush to the lyrically spare. A language which speaks of nightmare underworld as fluently as dreams above.”

About the Author

Imogen Hermes Gowar studied Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History before going on to work in museums. She began to write fiction inspired by the artefacts she worked with and in 2013 won the Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholarship to study for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock was a finalist in the MsLexia First Novel Competition and shortlisted for the inaugural Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers’ Award.

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