The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (Vintage £8.99)

I loved the characters in this book and found myself drawn into their stories. The paths they take and the changes that come over them are wonderful.

Mr Hancock is a widowed businessman who is completely out of his depth when a sea captain brings him a mermaid.

So begins his foray into London high life. Seen through his eyes, we are quite at liberty to be utterly shocked and appalled by the orgy he encounters when his mermaid is displayed in a house frequented by the rich and privileged.

Georgian London was a fascinating place: the debauched aristocracy were running fast and loose. Meanwhile, in the nearby ports of Deptford, sensible businessmen and artisan craftsman were changing the country’s fortune with their international success in trading, and this new wealth was bringing in building and investment opportunities. In this novel, these two worlds collide. When we first meet Angelica Neale, she seems pampered and arrogant and seems to hold the driving seat in her relationships with Mrs Frost and Mrs Chappell.

Later we see how vulnerable she actually is. But like a true survivor she comes through.

The book takes many turns in the second half, when a second mermaid is produced. This one seems supernatural in nature and pervades those near it with an immense melancholy and threatens to overpower all around it.

If you like a lengthy, riotous, poignant historical tales that are at times both funny and sad, then this book is for you.

Philippa Morris