The Mercies

Paperback edition released 08/07/2021

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Relationship Stories Historical fiction Sharing Diverse Voices Star Books

LoveReading Expert Review of The Mercies

A beautifully written, thoughtful and emotional historical tale inspired by the true events that befell a remote Norwegian community.

Totally, completely, and utterly gorgeous, this is a beautifully written historical relationship tale with real bite. And can I just qualify the word relationship - this is about the relationships with family, community, fear, nature, as well as the more obvious love. A work of fiction inspired by history, the story begins on Christmas Eve in 1617 when a sudden and violent storm takes the lives of forty fishermen, leaving the stunned women folk learning to survive on their remote northerly Norwegian island. Still reeling from the tragedy, their lives turn in the most frightening direction when the King brings in sorcery laws and a commissioner is installed to root out evil. This is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut adult novel, and I feel as though I have been waiting my reading life for it. The prologue hits with a huge sad inevitability. Kiran Millwood Hargrave writes with a sensitive and considerate pen, the descriptions are truly breathtaking. While there are some savage shocks in store, The Mercies is still a warm, thoughtful and touching read. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, we also just had to include The Mercies as a LoveReading Star Book too.

Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Liz Robinson

The Mercies Synopsis

On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø 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 Vardø wiped out in an instant.

Vardø is now a place of women.

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 Vardø to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place flooded with a terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø 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.

Win a Copy of The Crystal Crypt and the Poppy Denby Investigates Series So Far

Win a Copy of The Crystal Crypt and the Poppy Denby Investigates Series So Far

Closing date: 12/12/2021

The Crystal Crypt, the latest in Fiona Veitch Smith's Poppy Denby Investigates series is a "wonderfully evocative and vivacious 1920’s murder mystery [that] features a female sleuth and reporter investigating a suspicious death" Liz Robinson, Expert Reviewer  To celebrate the release of The Crystal Crypt, we're working with Lion Hudson to give away the whole of the Poppy Denby Investigates series so far. This draw is open only for UK residents currently in the UK and is free to enter, multiple entries from the same email address will only be counted once. The draw closes on 12th December 2021. Please ensure that the details you use to enter the competition will be correct at the time the competition ends. The winners will be notified as soon as possible.

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Kiran Millwood Hargrave Press Reviews

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 award-winning young adult author Kiran Millwood Hargrave turns to 17th-century Norway in her first novel for adults . . . . Read if you like Circe by Madeline Miller and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel -- Stylist, 'Best New Books for 2020'

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 

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781529075076
Publication date: 08/07/2021
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781529005103
Publication date: 06/02/2020
Format: Hardback

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