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.
In the media
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