Sometimes you just hit on a few great finds in a row and this month I want to share some incredible new books that I have discovered. Occasionally I will review books that were published years before but this month, these are new finds just out in 2018.
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock: A Novel by Imogen Hermes Gowar takes place in London in 1785. Trading merchant Jonah Hancock is frustrated when the Captain of Jonah’s ship returns to tell him that he has traded everything for one object: the body of a mermaid. In a different part of London Angelica Neal is mourning the loss of her protector who has just died, leaving her at the mercy of her former madam, Mrs. Chappel. Angelica and her maid, Eliza Frost, must figure out a way to keep Angelica living in the manner to which she has grown accustomed. Jonah and Angelica’s paths cross even as Angelica falls under the spell of George, a rather tedious wastrel. This may seem like a trite little romance novel, but it is anything but. The prose draws you in and while the characters aren’t always likeable there is something about them that invests the reader. A magic thread runs throughout this story that balances the sordid nature of Angelica’s life.
Another story with a magical theme is What Should be Wild. This is Julia Fine’s debut novel and it is a complex tale which weaves back and forth through time. Masie Cathay lives with her father, Peter, at their estate which is called Urizon. Masie must stay far away from other people because she is afflicted with a curse that causes her touch to either kill or reanimate. She lives secluded from everyone except her father and the housekeeper until one day she comes into contact with Matthew and her world changes. Suddenly they are drawn to the forest where the past dwells…literally. The women of Urizon from years past gather there….waiting. Waiting for what? Well turn the pages and you will find out.
Elizabeth Crook has written a wonderful historical fiction that reads a bit like a tall tale. The Which Way Tree takes place in Texas there is a demon panther, El Demonio de Dos Dedos, on the loose sometime during the Civil War. This panther has terrorized Benjamin’s family and in the first few pages the reader gets to hear Benjamin’s remarkable voice. Benjamin is testifying to the story of his sister’s hunt for the panther that killed her mother and how that hunt got tangled up with the sorry life of Confederate soldier Clarence Hanlin. I have to admit I fell in love with Benjamin’s voice. We are introduced to him as he relays the beginning of his testimony to the judge in the case. Later he is sent home to continue telling his tale through a series of letters and his perspective is told with such innocence and wonder that the truth of it, despite the tall tale nature of it all, seems incontrovertible. This author has breathed life into an old style of story and it’s so refreshing that I had to recommend it.