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The Mercies: Book summary and reviews of The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Mercies

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave X
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2020
    336 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

After the men in an Arctic Norwegian town are wiped out, the women must survive a sinister threat in this "perfectly told" 1600s parable of "a world gone mad" (Adriana Trigiani).

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter 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 Arctic 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 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 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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 Reviews (starred review)

"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." - Publishers Weekly

"Hargrave's expressive prose easily conveys the unforgiving landscape of mud, ice, wind, and salt...A moving tale of women given no choice but independence who are then persecuted for the 'choice' they have made." - Booklist

"The latest from Hargrave is slow paced and deliberate, as if dreading its own unhappy denouement. Its strength lies in the richly researched details of primitive Norwegian village life, which illustrate how the women scrape a livelihood from the barren subarctic." - Library Journal

"The Mercies took my breath away. A beautifully rendered portrait of a community, a landscape, and a relationship. I read it with equal parts hope and dread. Kiran 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, New York Times bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring

"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 The Hiding Game and Mrs. Hemingway

"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 New York Times bestselling author of Tony's Wife and Kiss Carlo

The information about The Mercies shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a British author, poet, and playwright. Her debut book, The Girl of Ink & Stars, won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and British Children's Book of the Year. Her second book, The Island at the End of Everything, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and VOYA. She holds degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and lives by the river in Oxford. The Mercies is her debut novel for adults.

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