I have just finished reading an amazing book! It must surely be going to be made into a film, because every single scene, page, sentence is just a feast for the senses. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower. Oh, read it, read it!
The most unlikely hero and heroine; he a middle-aged widowed shipowner leading a dull, provincial life; she, a glorious London whore, all pouting provocation and powdered hair. (I'm not giving anything away by hinting that they end up together, it's pretty obvious that this is where the novel is going from the outset) but the sheer unlikeliness of their pairing makes this novel a real page-turner. By the time they did get together I was so caught up in their story and so desperate for them to be happy together than when things started to go wrong I couldn't bear to carry on reading! and had to put the book away and revive myself with tea and cake.
The writing, oh, the writing!! I loved the opening lines so much that I almost wrote this review on the basis of the opening alone, but forced myself to wait until I had finished reading it. But just look at this:-
"Jonah Hancock's counting house is built wedge-shaped and coffered like a ship's cabin, whitewashed walls and black skirting, beam pegged snugly to beam. The wind sings down Union Street, raindrops burst against the windowpane, and Mr Hancock leans forward on his elbows, cradling his brow in his hands..."
It has a gorgeous cover, all gold and black, and the inside page where all the printer's and publisher's details are (there must be a proper name for this page but I don't know what it is) is set out to look just like something written in the period - the first edition of a Jane Austen, something like that. I love those little details. I am very jealous of this book. I wish I had written it!!!!
I started reading The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock late on a Saturday evening. No chocolate in the house, sadly. Now, when I lived in north London that would have been no problem, as there was a plethora of all-night garages, 24-hour supermarkets and little Greek or Turkish shops that never seemed to close - just the thing if you were suddenly struck with longing for a peppermint Aero at 2.00 am. But I live in sedate Welwyn Garden City now, and by midnight all citizens are tucked up in their beds. So all I could do was dream ... and, browsing the internet, look at what I found! (I lived in the USA and have to say, sadly, the chocolate wasn't really to my liking - but then I moved there from Belgium, so I was a bit spoilt). But for sheer glorious chocolate-ness, these seashells are something special. They are made by a company called distinct delights, here is their website if anyone else wants to do a bit of mouthwatering browsing!! http://www.distinctdelights.com