Looking back on it, I find pretty amusing the circumstances and events that led me to eventually read this book. My first proper encounter was last year, when I was browsing in Piccadilly Circus’ Hatchards. Upon noticing I was clutching ‘Scaramouche’ with (what I assumed to be) an expression of pure delight, one of the booksellers approached me with a copy of ‘The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock’ and enthusiastically recommended it to me (so much so, you would have thought that he had penned it himself). However, trying to curb the amount I was spending on books, I politely declined but tucked the title to the back of my mind.
Fast-forward a few months to earlier this month on the London Bookshop Crawl. Having come towards the end of the bookshop crawl, I found myself back in one of my favourite bookshops – Piccadilly Waterstones. Whilst paying for the last of my haul, the bookseller and I got chatting about books, when to my utmost surprise and amusement, from behind the counter he whipped out a copy of (yes you guessed it) ‘The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock’. After excitedly telling me how he was ‘simply hooked’ after two pages, I could do nothing other than laugh and add it to my pile. Of course, after having it recommended with such vigour from two separate people, my curiosity was definitely more than a little piqued.
The narrative was flawlessly woven with such colourful descriptions and a lyrical quality, effortlessly transporting the reader to eighteenth century London. The changes in character point of views was written skillfully, not disrupting the over arching flow of the story. The writing itself was simply incredible- something I cannot put enough emphasis on.
The characters of Mr. Hancock and Angelica had been beautifully drawn out, each having complexities and vivid personalities of their own. Secondary characters had been more lightly sketched; nonetheless their personalities also seeped through, providing the story with an array of characters. The stark contrast of personalities of some of the characters (e.g. Mr. Hancock and Angelica) were incredible to read about, and more so the characters that had slightly more subtle differences (e.g. Elinor and Polly).
Despite having trouble forming a meaningful connection or attachment with any of the presented characters – I felt something akin to empathy for Sukie but nothing more, it did not stop me from appreciating them. Character development had been brilliantly captured.
In spite of this, the plot was somewhat lacking. Small spurts of actions were provided intermittently throughout but there just was not enough in a sense. Most of the action seemed to be concentrated towards the middle of the first volume and then more towards the end of the third volume. Certainly, the plot was slow, especially in the second volume of the book, with very little happening. Yet, having an insight in to the characters’ daily life arguably provided them with more depth. Frustratingly, a couple of the characters’ narratives were left incomplete (one was left with an air of mystery entirely), which raised the question of why had they been included to begin with – what purpose did they serve?
In a nutshell, this was a beautifully written book, depicting a variety of characters with distinctive personalities, each intriguing in their own way. The plot felt whimsical and was somewhat lacking; however the portrayal of society was fascinating to read about.
P.S. I heard exercising helps with your decision making. It’s true – after going to the gym earlier today, I’ve decided I’m never going back 😋