'A gripping novel inspired by a real-life witch hunt . . . Beautiful and chilling' Madeline Miller, author of Circe
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.
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 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 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 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.
PRAISE FOR THE MERCIES
'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
'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
'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)
This dark, dramatic historical from Hargrave (The Girl of Ink & Stars) begins on Christmas Eve 1617 when 40 men from Norway's remote island settlement of Vard die in a storm at sea, setting in motion events that lead to witch trials and executions. Maren Magnusdatter, age 20, having lost her father, brother, and fianc in the storm, lives quietly in Vard with her mother and sister-in-law Diinna, of the S mi people. That changes with the arrival of noted witch-hunter Commissioner Absalom Cornet, who comes from Scotland with his Norwegian wife, Ursa, to root out nonbelievers. Unused to such meager conditions, Ursa hires Maren to help her with household chores. Their friendship grows, as does Ursa's fear of her husband, an enthusiastic participant in the branding, strangling, and burning of suspected witches. Encouraged by the feudal lord who brought him to Vard , Cornet seeks out nonchurchgoers in a crusade against evil that puts Diinna and other S mis at risk. Eventually, Cornet arrests two local widows, tortures and burns them at the stake, then comes to arrest Maren, while Maren and Ursa turn to each other for affection and support. Hargraves's tale offers a feminist take on a horrific moment in history with its focus on the subjugation of women, superstition in isolated locations, and brutality in the name of religion. This is a potent novel.