21st Century Literature discussion

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
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2019 Book Discussions > Mermaid & Mrs Hancock - Background & General (No Spoilers) (Apr 2019)

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Hugh (bodachliath) | 2569 comments Mod
Since the nominator seems to have gone missing, I will make a start on this in case anyone is waiting for it. I was not planning to read this one and have not got a copy yet, so I can't contribute much beyond a bit of background info.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock is the debut novel by Imogen Hermes Gowar, and was shortlisted for the 2018 Womens' Prize for Fiction

A few reviews (these may contain spoilers):
https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/19/bo...
https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/bo...

Feel free to create further threads if you wish to participate.


Marc (monkeelino) | 2567 comments Mod
Every body who voted for this one, still planning on joining the discussion?


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2298 comments I read it in audio, so do not want to lead the discussion, but since I ultimately (after my nominee couldn't do it) voted for it, I will participate. I sure hope the nominator at least plans to participate.


Marc (monkeelino) | 2567 comments Mod
I wasn't going to try and squeeze this one in, but I think there's a copy available at the library right now and I'm headed there this afternoon--so, if it's there, I'm in!


Peter Mathews (pdmathews) Hello everyone. Since I nominated this wonderful book, I will be leading the discussion. I am very new to this group - my nomination was made on the same day that I joined, if I remember rightly - so please bear with me as I learn the conventions.


Peter Mathews (pdmathews) Since this particular thread is general comments without spoilers, I am shortly going to open another thread for open discussion.

My strategy will be to read (or reread, in my case) the novel bit by bit over the month of April and post my thoughts, and I invite you all to do the same.


Marc (monkeelino) | 2567 comments Mod
Thanks, Peter!


Kathleen | 254 comments We appreciate it, Peter!

I did vote for it, have started it, and am up to chapter seven. I like the characters so far, particularly Mr. Hancock for some reason--he seems vulnerable or something.


message 9: by Peter (last edited Apr 02, 2019 08:43PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Peter Mathews (pdmathews) As readers of contemporary literature, we are often exposed to historical fictions that are set in the nineteenth century, drawing on the great literature of that period. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, however, opens in 1785, and that quite deliberately marks it as wanting to explore an earlier time and set of customs.

It seems to me that an implicit point of reference for this novel is Fanny Burney's Evelina (1778) - that is "Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World" - a work that had an important impact, in particular, on Jane Austen. I can't say that I actually like Evelina all that much, but it does appear that Gowar's novel is a kind of counter-narrative to what Burney presents there.


message 10: by carissa (new)

carissa I have a copy and plan on reading it during the month. Will pop in to read/comment once I'm into it.


message 11: by Hugh (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2569 comments Mod
Thanks Peter. I may well join you later in the month but I am not promising anything yet.


message 12: by Drew (new) - rated it 4 stars

Drew (drewlynn) | 22 comments This book was such a treat! I enjoyed the little bit of the symbolism I picked up on but mostly loved the plot and style of writing. (And that it referred to Angelica's vagina as her "commodity.")


message 13: by Mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mark | 266 comments Ooh, it's long! After two whole pages, I like the setting.


message 14: by Mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mark | 266 comments This is a fun read! @ 1/3 of the way through, Ms. Gowar paints an expansive view of Georgian London, where Deptford is a long walk through fields to London. The tone and many of the details are reminiscent of the Tom Hardy TV series Taboo, with parallel sea captains, madams, aristocrats, and uncanny elements. Happily, where Tom Hardy's story focuses on the insane and violent, Gowar gives us the wonderful Sukie and the earnest Mrs. Frost (a hint of Dickensian naming).

She builds the time setting with a light salting of Georgian vocabulary: "viduity" and "fossick" (Australian, actually) for example. Houses are dark at night, until someone goes to the effort of lighting a candle.

Looking forward to more...


Maggie Rotter (themagpie45) | 52 comments I'm quite impressed by the names for the many bits and pieces of clothing. What a chore it was to dress!


Franky | 101 comments I just finally got to this one today and am trying to just follow the narrative and the alternating plot so. I'm up to chapter 5. Interested to see where things will go. I think the writing is very lyrical.


message 17: by Marc (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2567 comments Mod
Maggie, What a chore this must have been to research! I, too, was struck by the ornate and complicated nature of dressing. Two out of every three words I didn't know seemed to refer to clothing.


Kathleen | 254 comments And speaking of clothing, one of the interesting things about this is the frank realism. I've noticed multiple times when women's skirts were used for various cleanup tasks … (I got a particular kick out of the peeing while traveling in the coach scene. You never see that on Masterpiece!)


message 19: by Marc (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2567 comments Mod
That kind of realism, Kathleen, really immerses a reader in the time and place. A few times, I felt like I was reading or envisioning a play. Howard certainly knows how to set a stage!


message 20: by Marc (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2567 comments Mod
[Gowar]... autocorrect on my phone, and, of course, since I'm using the GR app, I can't edit my comment.


Kathleen | 254 comments Ha! Autocorrect can be such a nuisance. :)

I agree about it being like reading a play, Marc. For some reason though, I never felt really immersed in the time as I usually do in a historical novel. I'm trying to figure out why, but I think it has more to do with the characters than the setting, because the detailed descriptions were fantastic.


message 22: by Mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mark | 266 comments Marc wrote: Maggie, What a chore this must have been to research! I, too, was struck by the ornate and complicated nature of dressing. Two out of every three words I didn't know seemed to refer to clothing.

Gowar does a good job managing to keep this a narrative, not a research article. The offhand use of the specialized vocabulary is an important part of this.


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