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Inspired by real historical events, The Mercies is a breathtaking story of love, fear and obsession, and the strength and courage of women.
On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardo is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves, the menfolk of Vardo wiped out in an instant.
Now the women must fend for themselves.
Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardo to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardo, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty and terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.
Inspired by the real events of the Vardo storm and the 1621 witch trials, Kiran Millwood Hargrave's The Mercies is a story about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and a love that may prove as dangerous as it is powerful.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave (b. 1990) is an award-winning poet, playwright, and novelist. Her bestselling works for children include The Girl of Ink & Stars, and have won numerous awards including the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, the British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year, and the Blackwell's Children's Book of the Year, and been shortlisted for prizes such as the Costa Children's Book Award and the Blue Peter Best Story Award. The Merciesis her first novel for adults. Kiran lives by the river in Oxford, with her husband, artist Tom de Freston, and their rescue cat, Luna.
Caught me from the very first page and held me right to the end. A vivid evocation of time and place and utterly believable, absorbing characters - I felt I breathed the same air . . . The Mercies is a story that will stay with me -- Helen Walmsley-Johnson, author of Look What You Made Me Do On an icy, dark island, men hunt witches and women fight back. Kiran Millwood Hargrave plucks a piece of 400-year-old legal history - a European king's prosecution of 91 people for witchcraft - and gives it a feminist spin. In clean, gripping sentences, the author is wonderfully tuned to the ways and gestures of a seemingly taciturn people. This chilling tale of religious persecution is served up with a feminist bite -- Kirkus (starred review) Kiran Millwood Hargrave effortlessly transports us across hundreds of years and thousands of miles to a tiny Norwegian Island in the early seventeenth century and throws us into the lives and passions of an extraordinary cast of characters . . . deeply unsettling, entirely pertinent to our contemporary lives, and a completely addictive read. I cannot recommend it enough -- Sarah Butler, author of Jack and Bet A mesmerising, heartwrenching novel which had me desperate for the women of Vardo to win through. A perfect book club choice -- AJ Pearce, author of Dear Mrs Bird The first adult novel from the award-winning children's writer begins with one of the most dramatic openings I have read in a long time: it is Christmas eve, 1617, when a shattering storm takes the lives of all the fishermen off the coast of the remote Norwegian island of Vardo. . . Based on the real-life witch trials of 1621, this is an immersive and beautifully written tale. Highly recommended -- Alice O'Keeffe Bookseller, Editor's Choice I loved The Mercies. It opened up a completely new chapter of history to me, and I loved the way it told its story in such beautiful language. I won't forget this story of these women in a Norway I knew little about. A searing historical novel -- Naomi Wood, author of Mrs Hemingway The Mercies is storytelling at its most masterful. This is an exquisite tale of sisterhood, of love, of courage and of what happens when communities turn on each other. It is everything I could have desired in a book: beguiling plotting, stunning prose, and a profound understanding of human nature. I have nothing short of awe for Kiran Millwood Hargrave and all she has accomplished here. I raged, I laughed, I cried. I urge you to read this novel -- Elizabeth Macneal, author of The Doll Factory Every once in a while, a modern day parable, perfectly told, reflects all that could happen in a world gone mad. Kiran Millwood Hargrave has written a novel for our times with artistry and skill. Maren's story is powerful, at turns, it is disturbing, and ultimately illuminating. You will ponder it long after you finish this magnificent work -- Adriana Trigiani, author of Lucia, Lucia Both harrowing and beautiful. Through mesmerizing prose, Kiran Millwood Hargrave depicts the brutality of life for women on an isolated island in 1620 Norway during the witch trials. Yet amidst this horror and within the punishing landscape, she creates a set of brilliant characters and a moving love story full of tenderness and hope. This is a book to be savoured and read time and again. -- Jenny Quintana, author of The Missing Girl With her characteristic tenderness and prose that tides between the carnal and the sublime, Kiran Millwood Hargrave illuminates one of the darkest chapters of our history. In The Mercies, she sweeps us to a place that dazzles and reeks and chills to the bone, where the hearts of women roar louder than storms. She is an outstanding talent, and wherever her imagination sails next, I will follow -- Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season and The Priory of the Orange Tree Absolutely stunning. The Mercies is a very special book. -- Louise O'Neill, author of Asking For It The Mercies took my breath away. A beautifully rendered portrait of a community, a landscape, a relationship, I read it with equal parts hope and dread. Kiran Millwood Hargrave has masterfully built up an incredible claustrophobic atmosphere, shot through with delicate intimacy. On finishing it I pressed the book to me, hoping to absorb some of her skill. -- Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl With a Pearl Earring A book for our times . . . Millwood Hargrave is a whirlwind, storm-building talent -- Daisy Johnson, Man Booker Prize shortlisted author of Everything Under A gripping novel inspired by a real-life witch hunt. Hargrave's prose is visceral and immersive; the muddy, cold life and politics of a fishing village leap to vivid life. But her most vital insights are about the human heart: how terrifyingly quickly prejudices can turn into murder, and how desperately we need love and courage to oppose it. Beautiful and chilling -- Madeline Miller, author of Circe