Film and television rights to Imogen Hermes Gowar’s debut novel The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock (Harvill Secker) have been secured by BAFTA and Golden Globe winning producer Colin Callender's company Playground.
The rich historical novel was fought over by 10 publishers at auction before a six-figure advance swayed it for Harvill Secker, which published in January. Since then it has been longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize. Set in Georgian London in 1785, it centres on the unlikely relationship between a haughty courtesan and a portly widowed merchant who are brought together by some strange ship's cargo: a mermaid.
Callender, executive producer and founder of Playground, called it "remarkable" and "gloriously enthralling".
“In the tradition of Wolf Hall and Howards End we at Playground are very excited to bring to the screen Imogen’s remarkable debut novel," he said. "We are honoured that she has entrusted us with her gloriously enthralling original story.”
Melissa Gallant, creative director at Playground UK, added: “We instantly fell in love with Imogen's extraordinary and spellbinding novel. It is such a vibrant and moving love story full of originality and purpose.”
The deal was brokered by Luke Speed of Curtis Brown Group on behalf of Karolina Sutton of Curtis Brown Group.
Author Hermes Gowar was interviewed by The Bookseller in January.