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 how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and 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
In the media
The Mercies is among the best novels I’ve read in years. In addition to its beautiful writing, its subject matter is both enduring and timely
New York Times Book Review
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
This is a powerful story that gathers ever more momentum as it moves towards its conclusion
The most interesting historical fiction speaks of the time of writing as much as of its subject . . . The Mercies shows us the patriarchal fear of women's strength and reason
Sarah Moss, Guardian