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The Mercies
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The Mercies
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The women in an Arctic village must survive a sinister threat after all the men are wiped out by a catastrophic storm in this "gripping novel inspired by a real-life witch hunt. . . ....
The women in an Arctic village must survive a sinister threat after all the men are wiped out by a catastrophic storm in this "gripping novel inspired by a real-life witch hunt. . . ....
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  • The women in an Arctic village must survive a sinister threat after all the men are wiped out by a catastrophic storm in this "gripping novel inspired by a real-life witch hunt. . . . Beautiful and chilling" (Madeline Miller, bestselling author of Circe).
    When the women take over, is it sorcery or power?
     
    Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the skies break into a sudden and reckless storm. All forty of the village’s men were at sea, including Maren’s father and brother, and all forty are drowned in the otherworldly disaster.  
     
    For the women left behind, survival means defying the strict rules of the island. They fish, hunt, and butcher reindeer—which they never did while the men were alive. But the foundation of this new feminine frontier begins to crack with the arrival of Absalom Cornet, a man sent from Scotland to root out alleged witchcraft. Cornet brings with him the threat of danger—and a pretty, young Norwegian wife named Ursa.
    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.   
    "The Mercies has a pull as sure as the tide. It totally swept me away to Vardø, where grief struck islanders stand tall in the shadow of religious persecution and witch burnings. It's a beautifully intimate story of friendship, love and hope. A haunting ode to self-reliant and quietly defiant women." (Douglas Stuart, Booker Prize winning author of Shuggie Bain)

About the Author-

  • 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.

Reviews-

  • Library Journal

    September 1, 2019

    In early 1600s Norway, 40 fishermen are drowned in a violent storm, and the women of tiny Vardø are left to manage on their own. Enter Scotsman Absalom Cornet, convinced that the village is godless and ready to lend it supreme male authority. But his young Norwegian wife isn't so sure. British poet/playwright Hargrave is also a best-selling, Costa short-listed children's author making her adult debut with fanfare. Rights have gone to 11 territories, film rights have been sold, and this U.S. edition is getting a 50,000-copy first printing. Based on real events.

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from September 15, 2019
    On an icy, dark island, men hunt witches and women fight back. British poet and playwright 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. The story opens in 1617 in the Arctic Circle, with a historic, strangely sudden storm off the island of Vardø. Maren, 20, has run to the harbor as her father, brother, and fiance founder in boats at sea. "All about her, other mothers, sisters, daughters are throwing themselves at the weather: dark, rain-slick shapes, clumsy as seals." Forty men drown in the Christmas Eve storm, leaving their Norwegian womenfolk in a treeless village, sunk in winter darkness. The women winch the men's corpses off the rocks, up the cliffs, and store them in a boathouse; the ground is far too frozen to breach. They butcher reindeer and, after much dissention, split over the radical step of going to sea to fish for themselves. News reaches the authorities, who send first a preacher, then someone more sinister, Scotsman Absalom Cornet, who has already executed a woman for witchery. He brings a bewildered new wife, Ursa, a young city woman, ignorant of her husband's history. She forms a fast, unlikely bond with Maren. To Absalom, the lethal storm seems suspiciously supernatural and the customs of the local Laplanders--Sámi people--an abomination. The tension ratchets across the novel's three sections: "Storm," "Arrival," and "Hunt." The women--divided, watchful, unlettered, and bereaved--are prey, but they are not helpless. In clean, gripping sentences the author is wonderfully tuned to the ways and gestures of a seemingly taciturn people. "Even writing at a distance of four hundred years, I found much to recognize," she states in her historical note. "This story is about people, and how they lived; before why and how they died became what defined them." This chilling tale of religious persecution is served up with a feminist bite.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 4, 2019
    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 Vardø 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 fiancé in the storm, lives quietly in Vardø with her mother and sister-in-law Diinna, of the Sámi 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 Vardø, Cornet seeks out nonchurchgoers in a crusade against evil that puts Diinna and other Sámis 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. Agent: Kirby Kim, Janklow & Nesbit Associates.

  • Booklist

    December 1, 2019
    Every man in Vard� is dead. As wives, mothers, and daughters watch helplessly from shore, a freak storm dashes every boat and drowns every fisherman. Maren Bergensdatter instantly loses her father, brother, and fianc�. The village women must band together, lest they starve in the harshness of seventeenth-century Finnmark (Norway). Their autonomy grows as they fish and fend for themselves. Viewing this as an affront from a godless hinterland, a royally appointed commissioner, severe Scotsman Absalom Cornet, arrives with his new bride, Ursula, to set Vard� to rights. As Maren befriends Ursula, Absalom fans petty jealousies into a horrifying conflagration through witch trials. Hargrave's (The Island at the End of Everything, 2018) expressive prose easily conveys the unforgiving landscape of mud, ice, wind, and salt and how they turn Vard�'s women into their own worst enemies, easily exploited by Absalom and complicit in terrible events. The villains are unsubtle, but Maren and Ursula are portrayed in depth and with sensitivity. Hargrave presents a moving tale of women given no choice but independence who are then persecuted for the choice they have made.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

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