The Mercies
After a storm has killed off all the island's men, two women in a 1600s Norwegian coastal village struggle to survive against both natural forces and the men who have been sent to rid the community of alleged witchcraft.Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Bergensdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Northern town of Vardø must fend for themselves. Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband's authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty evil. As Maren and Ursa are pushed together and are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them with Absalom's iron rule threatening Vardø's very existence. Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1620 witch trials, THE MERCIES is a feminist story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.

The Mercies Details

TitleThe Mercies
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 11th, 2020
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316529259
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, LGBT

The Mercies Review

  • Emer (A Little Haze)
    January 1, 1970
    'The Mercies' is Kiran Millwood Hargrave's first adult fiction novel having previously written both middle grade and YA novels. I had previously read her book 'The Island at the End of Everything' and while I admired her writing in that I was not wholly convinced as the narrative felt too simplistic; a finding I put down to the age category for which the book was primarily written for.However, my experience with 'The Mercies' could not be more different. I adored this book. The story, the 'The Mercies' is Kiran Millwood Hargrave's first adult fiction novel having previously written both middle grade and YA novels. I had previously read her book 'The Island at the End of Everything' and while I admired her writing in that I was not wholly convinced as the narrative felt too simplistic; a finding I put down to the age category for which the book was primarily written for.However, my experience with 'The Mercies' could not be more different. I adored this book. The story, the characters, the pacing, the emotion... Simply fantastic! The book is inspired by real events and traces the events that unfolded in a small community in Norway in and after 1617 and focuses on how the people of Vardø dealt with the aftermath of a terrible storm that claimed the lives of forty fishermen; practically the entire community's male population. Primarily, the novel follows the stories of two young women, Maren and Ursa. Maren is originally from Vardø and has lost both her father and brother to the storm and the man to whom she was betrothed. The loss of her menfolk forced Maren to move outside the expected role of a woman in those times and particularly along with her friend Kirsten had to redraw the lines of what women could and could not do (e.g. take on a male role such as going out to sea fishing to provide for the community).Meanwhile in another part of Norway, Ursa is a young woman caring for her poorly sister when her father tells her that she is to be married to a man named Absalom Cornet. Together with her new husband, Ursa moves to the community of Vardø where Absalom has been granted the role of commissioner and is tasked with bringing religious order and righteousness to this community. And what follows is a story of mistrust, fear, propaganda and bigotry as it becomes apparent that Absalom is a man keen to accuse anyone that doesn't follow his zealous beliefs a witch or somehow involved in evilness and witchcraft. This was such an incredibly interesting book to read. From the opening page I was immediately hooked. The atmosphere that Millwood Hargrave creates in this novel is palpable. There is such a delicious air of tension and an almost eerie ethereal quality to the prose. When required the prose is perfectly spartan to illustrate the bleakness of the Norwegian climate and then at times it can become so wonderfully rich and deep when describing the characters' emotions and motivations. And the main characters of Maren and Ursa are truly beautifully written... They feel so alive, so vital amidst this bleak terrain. And I really did just fall in love with them both and their relationship with each other. This book is so wonderfully subtle at times that it gives the story and the characters the perfect chance to really blossom as the pages go by. And once the climax of the major storylines are reached it's so painfully heartbreaking that I challenge anyone not to be deeply moved by the story of these two women and the women of Vardø that were so callously accused of witchcraft for simply being independent, free thinkers and/or from an indigenous community. This is a wonderfully written historical fiction that shines a spotlight on a less well known era of witch trials. It gives such voice and agency to female characters and makes this time period and these characters truly feel alive and thusly, I am rating this four and a half stars. (Rounded to five)*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Picador, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review* For more reviews and book related chat check out my blog
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  • karen
    January 1, 1970
    ’I remember once when runes gave you comfort, when sailors came to my father to cast bones and tell them of their time left to come. They are a language, Maren. Just because you do not speak it doesn’t make it devilry.’back in the reviewing saddle.so, no—as i anticipated, this was not scary enough to be a true ‘october is spoooooky’ read, and reviewing it in december feels even less spooky, but it is an excellent book nonetheless; female-fronted historical fiction that reminded me of the novels ’I remember once when runes gave you comfort, when sailors came to my father to cast bones and tell them of their time left to come. They are a language, Maren. Just because you do not speak it doesn’t make it devilry.’back in the reviewing saddle.so, no—as i anticipated, this was not scary enough to be a true ‘october is spoooooky’ read, and reviewing it in december feels even less spooky, but it is an excellent book nonetheless; female-fronted historical fiction that reminded me of the novels of jessie burton in its similarly strong character development, its attention to detail, and its perspective of women in a historical context and a time period/setting that hasn’t already been done to death. can we agree that we neverever need to publish another WWII novel? The Mercies is based on the real-true events which occurred in 1617 in a fishing village located on one of norway’s tiny islands—when a sudden freak storm came, saw, and conquered; assaulting the fishing boats that were just heading out with the majority of the village’s menfolk on board, killing forty men in a matter of minutes. this brief storm reduced the island’s population dramatically, leaving behind only the women and girls, the very young boys and elderly men to survive in an unforgiving climate whose livelihood had depended on their fishermen. it was also a time where political power used religious devotion as a tool to get rid of undesirables. you know, that one time in history. the island’s women have very little opportunity for grieving their husbands and sons; when their bodies wash ashore, they are collected and stored until the ground becomes soft enough to allow for their burial, and in the absence of able-bodied men, some of the women defy convention and take on the necessary task of fishing, to prevent their people starving to death. theirs is a village that has been long-isolated from the greater world, and has for the most part maintained a perfunctory relationship with religion. although some are more devout than others, the island’s kirke is as much a town hall for the community to gather as it is a sacred place, and the region’s indigenous sami* people have contributed their own rituals to the fabric of the village. one of these women has even married into the community; a woman named diinna, made a widow by the storm, whose family’s cultural influence has long been a part of life on the island:Her father is a noaidi, a shaman of good standing. Before the kirke was more fully established, their neighbor Baar Ragnvalsson and many other men went to him for charms against bad weather. They had stopped lately, with new laws brought in to ban such things, but still Maren sees the small bone figures that the Sami say will protect against bad luck on most doorsteps. Pastor Gursson always turned a blind eye, though Toril and her ilk urged him to come down harder on such practices.after the storm, in the absence of male influence or supervision, the women step up to fill the void; capable, independent, unbound by conventional roles and duties—one woman even going so far as to wear her late husband’s trousers. his TROUSERS!!the women are adjusting and getting by just fine on their own until the arrival of absalom cornet—a scottish commissioner and witch-hunter. with him is his new wife ursa, a young woman accustomed to city life, luxurious surroundings, and servants; unprepared both for the barebones living conditions of the island and the homemaking duties of a wife. cornet has been summoned by king’s orders to restore godliness to the island and is horrified by the presence of runes and other evidence of heathen savagery he encounters. before long, some of the more devout women flutter under his masculine authority, relieved and reassured by a man’s presence, and to ingratiate themselves with him, they begin to denounce their less conventional neighbors, in the way of all of history’s witch hunting situations. unlike salem, where the accused were hung or smooshed by rocks, here they burn witches alive. and HOOO the witch-burning scene in this book is particularly horrifying. the story is carried by maren, who has lost her own betrothed in the storm, and ursa; two unlikely women thrown together by circumstance, forming an unexpectedly close, and very dangerous, bond.this is hargrave’s adult debut, and it’s an impressive one. the descriptions were strong, and reminded me of Tidelands; the similarly-situated/themed witch-series opener by philippa gregory— a hardscrabble existence on a bleak and tiny island where nature is unforgiving and women are at the mercy of powerful men and the gossip of bored or resentful neighbors, women whose reputations could be destroyed with a word or a suspicion. unlike gregory’s novel, this one has merits apart from the descriptive finesse, most notably in the character development. ursa is especially well-written—a woman wrenched away from her home and her beloved, chronically ill, sister into a marriage arranged out of financial necessity; the culture shock of moving from comfortable, although faded, opulence to severe privation; the psychological shock of going from being a pampered daughter to becoming the wife of a man of deep religious conviction who is proud and ambitious but without any gentleness to him. he has no understanding of how to treat a lady, unless it’s a witch he’s burning, and the wedding-night sequence is excruciating to read, although her (long) wait for him to come to their room is a beautifully written scene of nervous expectation, ripe with foreshadowing.She removes the chamber pot from sight, slides the warming pan from one side of the bed to the other. There are pale stains on the mattress, and the straw has broken through in places. She can’t face the greying pillow and so wraps her old nightdress about it.She lies ever so carefully, makes sure her hair is about her shoulders the way Agnete told her makes it look like she lies in a field of shining yellow wheat. Lamplight comes irregularly from the dock, and through the wooden walls she hears coarse voices speaking English and Norwegian and French and other languages she can’t recognize.Beneath is all sits a creaking sound, like their stair at home, or Father’s knees when he sits. For a long while she can’t place it, and wonders if it is inside her own mind. But then she realizes: it is the ice, relocking about the shipsmaren is also a very strong character. although island born and bred, she feels more compassion and patience for ursa than many of her neighbors. ursa stands out; a pretty flower in a stark landscape, and maren is drawn to her, helping ease her transition to island living, soon understanding that ursa’s domestic helplessness is circumstantial, not a result of laziness, and that her life and her marriage are not as pleasant as one might expect—learning how much she has sacrificed; down to the most essential part of her identity: …because they will use his customs for naming, she is Mistress Absalom Cornet. Herself, lost inside his name.. this is a gorgeous piece of feminist historical fiction, full of female awakening and empowerment, despite the high cost of independence, and there is beautiful and subtle perspective-writing as the two women see in each other a reflected kindred spirit, and become more to each other than they could ever have foreseen. it’s not out for a while, but it’s worth waiting for. like this review? *TIL (or ‘back in october IL’) that ‘lapps’ is apparently an offensive term. ************************************SPOOKYMONTH WINDS DOWN!i have no expectations of this actually being a horror novel, but i won it thru the gr giveaways and it has been patiently waiting for me to finish my horror-only october readings, so in these last few days of shocktober: witches. not horror, but maybe gentle alarm? come to my blog!
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  • Nigel
    January 1, 1970
    Very well written - very bleak indeed. Full review nearer the time of publication
  • Alexandra Pearson
    January 1, 1970
    This book starts with a storm and builds to a heartbreaking ending. Beautifully written, a story about love and fear and human nature. I don't want to say too much, because it's a story that deserves to be discovered at it's own pace, but it's wonderfully crafted. Read it.
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  • Frances
    January 1, 1970
    An absolutely gorgeous book. If you enjoyed Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, you’ll love this. Every page is so descriptive and makes for a really compelling read. If anything, I wish the pace of the ending could have matched the slower pace of the rest of the book as I didn’t want it to end. I don’t want to let these characters go! Highly recommend!
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  • Samantha Shannon
    January 1, 1970
    I'll let my quote sum up my response to this masterpiece: ‘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.’
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  • Dennis
    January 1, 1970
    As with all my negative reviews, I won’t go into detail, but the payout for this slow burn just didn’t work for me. I was expecting a lot more from this book, and it really just was “meh” for me. There’s definitely a reader for this book, but it wasn’t this one.
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  • Maureen
    January 1, 1970
    Vardo, Norway, Christmas Eve 1617, a remote northern settlement where a storm of unusually immense and vicious proportions, completely wipes out the menfolk in this small fishing community, leaving the womenfolk bereft and without the means to provide for themselves.Eighteen months later, the women have become adept at catching fish and are finally able to look after themselves, but their world is about to be turned upside down with the arrival of Absalom Cornet, a God-fearing man who has been Vardo, Norway, Christmas Eve 1617, a remote northern settlement where a storm of unusually immense and vicious proportions, completely wipes out the menfolk in this small fishing community, leaving the womenfolk bereft and without the means to provide for themselves.Eighteen months later, the women have become adept at catching fish and are finally able to look after themselves, but their world is about to be turned upside down with the arrival of Absalom Cornet, a God-fearing man who has been summoned from his home in Scotland to bring the women of Vardo to heel, and to ensure that they too are God fearing, and worship at the local church, but primarily, unbeknownst to these women, he’s also a witch finder!The main protagonists are Maren, born and bred in Vardo, who lost her father and brother in the storm, and Absalom’s wife Ursa, a woman of genteel breeding, born and brought up in the city of Bergen, who is trapped in a loveless arranged marriage. Despite the fact that they come from completely different backgrounds, Maren and Ursa soon form a bond, and find solace in each other’s company, but the whole village has much to fear where Absalom is concerned, including his wife.The writing is beautiful, often crude, echoing the privations of an impoverished community at the mercy of a ghastly climate. The reader is overwhelmed by the bleak environment and the conditions it imposes. Knowing ‘The Mercies’ was based on the real events of the Vardo storm and the witch trials of 1621, makes it even harder to read, such is the brutality used against those accused of witchcraft, but it’s hauntingly beautiful and highly recommended!*Thank you to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan, Picador, for my ARC for which I have given an honest unbiased review in exchange *
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  • Catherine Doyle
    January 1, 1970
    Gorgeous, dark, compelling, and impossible to put down, I will be recommending this to everyone when it comes out.
  • Gianna Lorandi
    January 1, 1970
    The Mercies is set in Finmark in Northern Norway during the witch trials around the 1620s.Beautifully written and well researched, it captures the sense of isolation and the eerie atmosphere of place and time. The characters are well formed, specially the strong women of Vardø.This is a story of hardships, love, trust & fear - it’s heartbreaking.Thank you NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for the advanced copy.
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  • Anna Louise
    January 1, 1970
    One of my most anticipated books of next year - Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut adult novel The Mercies which I was blessed enough to get an ARC of. And boy did it live up to my expectations! Her flowery and lyrical writing was perfect for this historical fiction and I can’t wait to see what else she has in store. This book was just pure perfection and I can’t wait for you guys to read it! Highly recommend! Trigger warnings for loss of loved ones, suicidal thoughts, rape, sexism and some One of my most anticipated books of next year - Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut adult novel The Mercies which I was blessed enough to get an ARC of. And boy did it live up to my expectations! Her flowery and lyrical writing was perfect for this historical fiction and I can’t wait to see what else she has in store. This book was just pure perfection and I can’t wait for you guys to read it! Highly recommend! Trigger warnings for loss of loved ones, suicidal thoughts, rape, sexism and some discussion on miscarriages.
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  • Collin
    January 1, 1970
    Norway 1617, the town of Vardo. Maren Bergensdatter and Diinna are just two of the women who have made their way through the slashing rain to the edge of their island to watch a terrible, colossal storm raining down havoc and destruction on the little fishing fleet caught in the middle of it. Maren and the other women are not aware of the consequences that this storm is going to have on the lives of their island town. As the storm subsides, the women observe the detritus rolling in towards them Norway 1617, the town of Vardo. Maren Bergensdatter and Diinna are just two of the women who have made their way through the slashing rain to the edge of their island to watch a terrible, colossal storm raining down havoc and destruction on the little fishing fleet caught in the middle of it. Maren and the other women are not aware of the consequences that this storm is going to have on the lives of their island town. As the storm subsides, the women observe the detritus rolling in towards them on the waves.“The women of Vardo gather at the scooped-out edge of their island, and though some are still shouting, Maren’s ears ring with silence. Before her, the harbour is wiped smooth as a mirror. Her Jaw is caught on the hinges of itself, her tongue dripping blood warm down her chin. Her needle is threaded in the web between her thumb and forefinger, the wound a neat circle of pink. As she watches, a final flash of lightning illuminates the hatefully still sea, and from its blackness rise oars and rudders and a full mast with gently stowed sails, like underwater forests uprooted. Of their men, there is no sign.The women of Vardo don’t know it yet but every man of the fishing fleet has drowned, including Maren’s father and brother. Her brother was Diinna’s husband and his loss is felt by both women.There used to be fifty-three males living in the town, now there are thirteen. Two are merely babies, three are elders, and the rest are young boys who were too young to be out with the fleet.Superstition is rife. The women start looking for answers as to what caused this tragedy. The storm abnormally strong and swift. They talk of signs that suggested this was going to happen, a tern, a whale swimming upside down, signs that the women should have noticed. The devil himself is blamed for the storm and the loss of their men. Then the talk inevitably turns to leaving. The women have relations and family in other towns. Serious talk and consideration bandied about of leaving to the larger cities of Varanger and Tromso. Cities a good distance away. It is finally decided that they will wait for word from Kiberg, which they expect will arrive by boat now the storm has dispersed.Diinna is of the indigenous Sami people. Charms, talking to spirits to appease the weather, vital for a fishing population, is simply their way of life. Maren’s father was a noaidi, a shaman, a mystic. Many from the town would come to him for charms and trinkets, protection from the sea and foul weather. However, King Christian IV is a strict Lutheran and times have changed, and laws have been brought in by the church banning such acts, although the pastor would normally let such things pass, turning away as if not noticing. Christianity has taken hold here and there is bad blood between the Christians and the Sami, who they consider pagans that follow the old ways. The narrative now jumps to 1619, Bergen, which is in the southwest of Norway, almost as far away from Vardo, which is way up in the north, as you can get. Ursa has no choice in the husband she is to marry, she does not even get to see him before her father has agreed happily to the marriage. Commissioner Absalom Cornet has come all the way from Scotland and his marriage proposal is a simple sentence uttered to Ursa and her father, “I am in need of a wife”. Commissioner Cornet has been sent from Scotland under the orders of Lensmann Cunningham to ostensibly stamp out all heathen presence and activity from Vardo. Ursa’s father is, if not euphoric, then ecstatic, that his daughter will be marrying a man in such a prestigious position. Ursa’s feelings, well they hardly matter do they. When the Commissioner leaves Ursa watches him from an upstairs window and thinks,“Absalom Cornet. It sounds less like a prayer, and more like a knell.”Ursa has no idea how prescient this thought will turn out to be.Absalom and Ursa set sail for Vardo, where Lensmann Cunningham will meet up with them.On the long sea voyage to Vardo, Ursa comes to see her husband’s true side and realises that she is trapped with no chance of escape. Upon overhearing her talking to the captain in Norwegian, Absalom becomes quite angry with her, he then asks the captain of the ship to teach him Norwegian.“Ursa feels a noose slip about her neck. Soon she will have nowhere to hide, not even her mother tongue. She excuses herself early, leaves them talking in the lamplight. She feels, once again, quite alone.”When the ship finally pulls into Vardo the women are all there to witness the arrival. Maren thinks that the last time all the women were gathered here together like this was the night of the storm, the night they lost the men.It is Maren who runs back to get Ursa a coat when they make land and an instant connection is formed between the two as Ursa thanks her.There is an almost ominous feeling shrouding over this initial landing, and the weather, as if in agreement starts to rain.A little later, when Absalom publicly addresses the women, he tells them that, “Too long you have been left here without guidance. I am here to offer it, and I must ask you to be vigilant.”A dramatic statement that has a forbidding feeling attached to it.It does not take long for Maren to realise that Ursa is floundering in this new way of life and has no idea about the things that the women of Vardo find basic and rudimental. Marlen takes it upon herself to help Ursa, and a strong bond of friendship is formed between the two.These two characters who come from the two extreme ends of their country, come from lives that are universes apart, become closer and closer as each day passes. Are their feelings passing over the line of friendship? What will happen if Absalom finds out?Then the Lensmann, who Absalom has been waiting for finally arrives, and the true, horrible purpose of Absalom’s appointment to Vardo becomes painfully clear!To think that this book is based on a real event and real characters is chilling but not surprising. We have inflicted horror upon horror upon ourselves throughout our brief history. Looking at the world today, I would like to think we have moved forwards a little. We certainly don’t burn “witches” at the stake anymore, but do we tolerate beliefs that are not our own? Do we persecute those who choose a different faith? A different style of life? Will we ever truly change?This wonderful novel will be published by Little Brown and Company in February 2020. Thankyou to them and Netgally for the ARC.
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  • Katie Fellows
    January 1, 1970
    Utter brilliance! A best-seller for 2020 that's sure!
  • Ruth Brookes
    January 1, 1970
    A dark, beautiful & compelling story of cold & bitterness, suspicion & fear, longing & love. This has stayed with me.
  • Ana
    January 1, 1970
    I love every book Kiran Millwood Hargrave has ever written but damn if this hasn't blown them all out of the water
  • Jen
    January 1, 1970
    As a fan of Kiran Millwood Hargrave's middle grade novels, I was curious to see how she would approach an adult target audience. From the opening pages, it was clear the transition would be seamless, losing none of the magic of her children's fiction.This is a wonderfully crafted Nordic novel, atmospheric without ever losing touch of its human heart. It's not a sweeping historical epic, despite its majestic and brutal setting: instead, The Mercies explores the themes of suspicion and trust, love As a fan of Kiran Millwood Hargrave's middle grade novels, I was curious to see how she would approach an adult target audience. From the opening pages, it was clear the transition would be seamless, losing none of the magic of her children's fiction.This is a wonderfully crafted Nordic novel, atmospheric without ever losing touch of its human heart. It's not a sweeping historical epic, despite its majestic and brutal setting: instead, The Mercies explores the themes of suspicion and trust, love and fear, through the eyes of two women caught up in the insular politics of a small town at the edge of the world. Character is at the heart of the storytelling here, and I felt I had a real sense of how these characters lived, and how their world could shape and break them.Simply put, The Mercies is as poetic and powerful as the casting of a spell. It's one of those stories that will stay with me.*Thank you to Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review*
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  • Ashleigh Armstrong
    January 1, 1970
    The storm brings more than just rain! A thrilling tale of change, independence and control! A fantastic narrative with inspirational female protagonists who work to defy the odds!
  • Jessica Gilmore
    January 1, 1970
    Some books linger long after you finish them; the scenes and characters replaying endlessly, thoughts of what might happen next haunting you. The Mercies is one of those books and although it’s a fictionalised account and the characters are indeed not real, it’s based on true events.It’s Christmas in a remote part of Norway (which may now be Finland) and the women of a small village on a small island watch in horror as a storm blows up out of nowhere and wipes out all the menfolk. Their grief Some books linger long after you finish them; the scenes and characters replaying endlessly, thoughts of what might happen next haunting you. The Mercies is one of those books and although it’s a fictionalised account and the characters are indeed not real, it’s based on true events.It’s Christmas in a remote part of Norway (which may now be Finland) and the women of a small village on a small island watch in horror as a storm blows up out of nowhere and wipes out all the menfolk. Their grief divides them, some turning to the church and piety tinged with malice and suspicion, others in time choosing action and self-sufficiency. But their king is watching James VI in Scotland with admiration and decides it’s time to weed out witchcraft in his own kingdom. The north of his country, where the Sami practice their ancient religion is the obvious place to start. And when the Commissioner he puts in place hears about a village full of women he knows there’s only one reason for the unnatural storm: witches.The story follows two different women, Ursula has been married to the new Commissioner’s newly installed overseer, a zealous, sadistic man. She’s left her comfortable home in Bergen and her poorly sister to try and eke out a living in a harsh landscape she doesn’t understand. But in this landscape she makes a friend, Maren, a woman who lost her father, brother and fiancé in the storm. The two women grew ever closer but when Marron’s friends come under suspicion and her Sami my sister-in-law refuses to when attend church events overwhelm them.This is a compelling, uncomfortable book about grief, friendship, love, hatred and what happens when differences divide us. Knowing it’s based on a true story makes reading and understanding the cycle of events even harder, even as vivid writing pulls you deeper in. Haunting, beautiful and devastating, this is that this is an unforgettable read.
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  • Kat
    January 1, 1970
    When I first started this book I was immediately taken with the beautiful quality of the writing and I knew then that this was a book I was going to love and I’m full of praise for just stunning it was.Based in part on some true events the story starts with a storm in which 40 fishermen from the small town of Vardø are drowned at sea leaving just the womenfolk to try and cope with their losses and also to survive. Tensions between the women gradually begin to surface and with the arrival of a When I first started this book I was immediately taken with the beautiful quality of the writing and I knew then that this was a book I was going to love and I’m full of praise for just stunning it was.Based in part on some true events the story starts with a storm in which 40 fishermen from the small town of Vardø are drowned at sea leaving just the womenfolk to try and cope with their losses and also to survive. Tensions between the women gradually begin to surface and with the arrival of a new commissioner Absolom Cornet who is a most dislikeable character and his wife Ursa things take a sinister turn as hints of witchcraft begin to threaten.This is a book filled with atmosphere, love, fear and mistrust as the zealot Absolom’s obsession with finding witches increases while his wife’s friendship with Maren a young woman of the town grows and it’s this relationship that’s makes for a beautiful read along with a storyline full of detail that is both compelling and heartbreakingly sad.It’s a wonderful novel, the characters are so well crafted and the author Kiran Millwood Hargrove has done a fantastic job of writing a story that has everything you want in a novel.I can 100% recommend this and for me it was a humongous five star read.My thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan, Picador for giving me the chance to read the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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  • Munch
    January 1, 1970
    I was sent an arc copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.This was a very atmospheric novel, you can almost feel that you are on the island of Vardo. The cold and isolated lives the people there must have lived. The witch hysteria and the repression of the local beliefs and customs by Christianity has always been an interesting subject for me. You really end up really fearing for the women, the constant possibility that you could be the next person to be accused would I was sent an arc copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.This was a very atmospheric novel, you can almost feel that you are on the island of Vardo. The cold and isolated lives the people there must have lived. The witch hysteria and the repression of the local beliefs and customs by Christianity has always been an interesting subject for me. You really end up really fearing for the women, the constant possibility that you could be the next person to be accused would have been terrifying and this book definitely makes you feel that tension. It doesn't rush into it, the author slowly builds the story, making you grow attached to and really get to know the characters as you follow their lives from the storm and losing nearly all of their menfolk and onwards. The tenderness between Maren and Ursa was a joy to read but also bitter sweet because their situation is so bleak. Their relationship is a very slow burn which I really enjoyed, I don't think that women in their situation and historical time period would have realised their feelings and acted on it as quickly as characters in some books do, so I found it very realistic and I savoured every small change in their friendship. I felt so sorry for Ursa's situation, her husband was so obsessed with his religion and his own goal that he treated her like an object.If you have any interest in the witch trials that happened in Norway and want a snippet of people's everyday lives give this a go!
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Picador and NetGalley for an advance e-copy of this book. I really liked the concept of The Mercies, and wanted to enjoy the book more than I did. Hargrave has obviously done a great deal of historical research, and doesn't shy away from the gory details - which was admirable (although also nauseating in parts!). Her writing style - which some have deemed atmospheric - I found overwritten and contrived, so I found it hard to get involved in the book, or care deeply about the Thank you to Picador and NetGalley for an advance e-copy of this book. I really liked the concept of The Mercies, and wanted to enjoy the book more than I did. Hargrave has obviously done a great deal of historical research, and doesn't shy away from the gory details - which was admirable (although also nauseating in parts!). Her writing style - which some have deemed atmospheric - I found overwritten and contrived, so I found it hard to get involved in the book, or care deeply about the characters. I'm not normally a fan of historical fiction though, so if it's your kind of genre you may well enjoy it more than me. I did like the ambiguous ending; this is a decent first foray into adult fiction for Hargrave.
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  • Helen White
    January 1, 1970
    Set in 1600s Norway this story tells of the island of Vardo and a devastating storm which kills most of the men from the island. An island of women is dangerous as Maren discovers. Her father,brother and betrothed all drowned. She turns to her outspoken friend Kirstin who guides the women to survive for themselves. Yet the arrival of a commissioner and his new wife Ursa turns everything they know upside down. Wanting to help Maren gets closer and closer to Ursa but also closer to her husband as Set in 1600s Norway this story tells of the island of Vardo and a devastating storm which kills most of the men from the island. An island of women is dangerous as Maren discovers. Her father,brother and betrothed all drowned. She turns to her outspoken friend Kirstin who guides the women to survive for themselves. Yet the arrival of a commissioner and his new wife Ursa turns everything they know upside down. Wanting to help Maren gets closer and closer to Ursa but also closer to her husband as the village discovers his real purpose for being there - to discover and try witches. A village entirely of women must be witches. This was a slow start and the isolation and claustrophobia of the environment was clear. As Maren and Ursa's friendship developed the story moved along with more purpose and also more menace as the hysteria of witch hunts too over. It's an interesting read and a new setting on a familiar theme.Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the advance review copy.
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  • thewoollygeek (tea, cake, crochet & books)
    January 1, 1970
    Captivating, enthralling, addictive, emotional, chilling, I could go on but you need to go read this for yourself to experience this amazing book. Full of tension, it really does evoke the feelings of a true witch hunt, it’s scarily good. The writing itself is true beauty, I knew a chapter in this was a book and writing I was going to adore. It’s not e book you can truly enjoy, the subject matter is so harrowing, but it’s a true work of classic fiction, it’s a must read especially with the Captivating, enthralling, addictive, emotional, chilling, I could go on but you need to go read this for yourself to experience this amazing book. Full of tension, it really does evoke the feelings of a true witch hunt, it’s scarily good. The writing itself is true beauty, I knew a chapter in this was a book and writing I was going to adore. It’s not e book you can truly enjoy, the subject matter is so harrowing, but it’s a true work of classic fiction, it’s a must read especially with the current climate, a challenging read but a worthwhile read. Another of my favourite books of this year and will be a huge book of 2020.Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
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  • Imie (mythicreader)
    January 1, 1970
    There has been some fantastic historical fiction released recently, and a few that focus on witches, so I was really excited to hear about Kiran Millwood-Hargraves latest book The Mercies, which is her first adult novel. Pan Macmillan heard my squeals of excitement so they sent me an early copy! What intrigued me the most about this book was that it was not set in the usual places for witch trials. Kiran Millwood Hargrave takes us up north to Vardo, a Norwegian island, to tell a story based off There has been some fantastic historical fiction released recently, and a few that focus on witches, so I was really excited to hear about Kiran Millwood-Hargraves latest book The Mercies, which is her first adult novel. Pan Macmillan heard my squeals of excitement so they sent me an early copy! What intrigued me the most about this book was that it was not set in the usual places for witch trials. Kiran Millwood Hargrave takes us up north to Vardo, a Norwegian island, to tell a story based off true events. On Christmas Eve 1617, the majority of the men on the island were wiped out by a crazy storm at sea. The women were left to look after themselves and the island. Eighteen months later, a sinister man and his wife arrive on the island, the man is convinced that there is evil at work and sets out to eradicate the problem. This story is rich in historical details, and I'll be fascinated to learn more (which is a sign of a brilliant historical novel in my eyes). Based of the tragic events of 1617 and the witch trials in 1621, this beautiful atmospheric read explores relationships, grief, power and suspicion. The way Hargrave has connected modern day issues to this old piece of history is genius. If you're looking for a gorgeous tale that will hit you in the heart, then this is for you. Beautiful, emotional, powerful. This historical read will magic you away.
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  • Fiona
    January 1, 1970
    What a powerful novel this is. I had no previous knowledge of the witch trials in Vardo, Norway. The Salem witch trials are widely known about but these events in Vardo seem to have been overshadowed.The author really brings this whole sorry period in human history to life with powerful characters, description of the area and meticulous research. It is a book that will stay with me. The mark of any good historical novel for me is when I want to learn more about the actual events and this novel What a powerful novel this is. I had no previous knowledge of the witch trials in Vardo, Norway. The Salem witch trials are widely known about but these events in Vardo seem to have been overshadowed.The author really brings this whole sorry period in human history to life with powerful characters, description of the area and meticulous research. It is a book that will stay with me. The mark of any good historical novel for me is when I want to learn more about the actual events and this novel does just that.My thanks to Netgalley, the author and publisher for this copy.
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  • Scarlet Wilson
    January 1, 1970
    A gorgeous, totally atmospheric and compelling story. The characters were so fully-fleshed that I found myself holding my breath at times. I loved the eerie element in the background, along with the suspicions and fears. the bleakness of the Norwegian setting was so strong, and I enjoyed reading a book from an era with events I knew little about.
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  • ☾ h a d e e r ☽
    January 1, 1970
    i have a gorgeous physical arc of this!!!
  • Cristina
    January 1, 1970
    This is a stunning, heartbreaker of a novel. The pace is slow and character-focused (which I don’t mind), the actual witch trials not happening until the last 80 or so pages. Instead the focus is on the women, on their relationships, on how they chafe against men who try to come in and control them, just when they got used to independence. It’s a love story and a tragedy and a historical drama all at once. I did take one star off because I felt that the importance of the Sami people was there This is a stunning, heartbreaker of a novel. The pace is slow and character-focused (which I don’t mind), the actual witch trials not happening until the last 80 or so pages. Instead the focus is on the women, on their relationships, on how they chafe against men who try to come in and control them, just when they got used to independence. It’s a love story and a tragedy and a historical drama all at once. I did take one star off because I felt that the importance of the Sami people was there but we are never given the one Sami character’s (Diina) point of view. I would read a companion novel all about Diina and her character arc after the events of this book.
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  • Cecilia
    January 1, 1970
    The Mercies is Nordic historical fiction at its best..A devastating storm brings tragedy to a Norwegian island, causing a shipwreck that kills all the men, leaving the women to forge a life on the island alone. A year and a half later a Scot arrives, sent there to dominate and control the island's women and to return them to their "proper place". Along with him came his young, meek wife who is fascinated by the strong women she finds, and begins to build a strong bond with one of them. Absalom The Mercies is Nordic historical fiction at its best..A devastating storm brings tragedy to a Norwegian island, causing a shipwreck that kills all the men, leaving the women to forge a life on the island alone. A year and a half later a Scot arrives, sent there to dominate and control the island's women and to return them to their "proper place". Along with him came his young, meek wife who is fascinated by the strong women she finds, and begins to build a strong bond with one of them. Absalom is determined to break the women, to prove them witches, and to exert his control.This is Nordic drama at its best, beautifully dark, brilliantly written, and atmospheric.
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  • Louise
    January 1, 1970
    Set on an island left grief stricken when 40 of the men folk die at sea,and the women are left to fend for themselves.Which was tough,back in the day when wearing trousers was considered to be a sin.Excellent central characters,both struggling to adapt to their circumstances,finding friendship with each other (my one grievance is I wished it had just been friendship)Set against a backdrop of social climbing,overly religious women and witchcraft,the book has tension and pace a plenty.Really Set on an island left grief stricken when 40 of the men folk die at sea,and the women are left to fend for themselves.Which was tough,back in the day when wearing trousers was considered to be a sin.Excellent central characters,both struggling to adapt to their circumstances,finding friendship with each other (my one grievance is I wished it had just been friendship)Set against a backdrop of social climbing,overly religious women and witchcraft,the book has tension and pace a plenty.Really rather good.
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