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The Sunday Times Bestseller and BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick 2020
For readers of Circe and The Handmaid’s Tale, Kiran Millwood Hargrave's The Mercies is a story about a love that could prove as dangerous as it is powerful.
Winter, 1617. The sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. A young woman, Maren, watches as the men of the island, out fishing, perish 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 the island to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In her new home, 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 . . .
'Beautiful and chilling' Madeline Miller, author of Circe
'Took my breath away' Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring
'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
'A book for our times . . . Millwood Hargrave is a whirlwind, storm-building talent' Daisy Johnson, Man Booker Prize shortlisted author of Everything Under
'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
'Absolutely stunning. The Mercies is a very special book.' Louise O'Neill, author of Asking For It
'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 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
'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
'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
'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 and The Hiding Game
'A mesmerising, heartwrenching novel which had me desperate for the women of Vardø to win through. A perfect book club choice' AJ Pearce, author of Dear Mrs Bird