The Mercies

The Mercies

A Novel

Book - 2020
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"Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm 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 stranger arrives on their shore. 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"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2020
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9780316529259
Characteristics: 345 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

In Finnmark, Norway, 1617, after 40 fishermen are drowned in the sea, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardo must fend for themselves especially when a sinister figure arrives, bringing with him a mighty evil that threatens their very existence.

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Oct 03, 2020

So gripping and atmospheric. I loved every page.

Jul 27, 2020

This historical fiction of the 17th century witch trials in far northern Norway was so well written it didn't matter that I knew the ending already. The action of the novel focuses intensely on a community of women initially left to their own devices following a devastating storm. A wide range of reaction is articulated, however three women in particular form a kind of triangle of proto-feminist response: Kirsten, who is dismissive of limits defining appropriate female behavior, and instead has a clear plan to bring her community of women to successful subsistence; Maren, the protagonist, who is in awe of Kirsten's freedom and critical of the vindictive mindsets of some of the women but wary of speaking her mind; and eventually Ursa, a woman from a relatively pampered existence in Bergen who is intimately aware of and privately loathes the repression of the Vardo women, herself included, but is bound by marriage to the man sent to rein in the women of Vardo. Refusing to participate in this negotiation of women's rights to govern their own lives is Diina, Maren's indigenous (Sami) sister-in-law who literally doesn't speak more than a few sentences in the book but represents an intriguing thesis--is refusing to participate/speak in the negotiation the only way to retain one's agency? When male order in the form of Ursa's husband Absolom, is empowered to re-impose patriarchal violence on the women of Vardo, the voices of this island of women are put to the test. The choice of complacence, complicity or defiance marks each woman and asks the reader how much power any individual woman can have under patriarchy. A beautifully written, thought-provoking novel--highly recommended!

RyanR_KCMO Jul 18, 2020

Like most witch stories, The Mercies puts its characters in unwinnable situations and forces us to experience their terrors and frustrations. Hargrave does this in a beautiful, pensive, quiet tale of strength against adversity and an innate drive for survival. The language of this book was delightful in the way that good translation is delightful; though I believe this book was written in English.

May 25, 2020

Hauntingly atmospheric historical fiction in which a small Norwegian fishing village is at the centre of a brutal witch hunt. The bleak, cold setting, slow-building tension, complicated characters and the fact that this is based on true events, make for a gripping reading experience.

AlishaH_KCMO Apr 29, 2020

Inspired by true events, The Mercies is about a small community called Vardø, in Norway beginning in 1617 after an unexpected storm takes the lives of practically the entire male population.

The story switched between two women. Maren, a member of the Vardø community who lost her father, brother, and the man she was to betrothed. The lost of the men forced Maren to see outside the norm of what is expected of both males and females in the community in order to survive.

The other woman is Ursa, a young woman who is use to carrying for her poorly sister after her mother passed away years ago. One day her father tells her she is to marry a man named Absalom Cornet, a Commissioner. Together, Ursa and Absalom go to Vardø where Absalom is tasked with bringing religious order to the community.

I absolutely adored the writing in The Mercies. I don't know what it was about Kiran Millwood Hargrave's writing but I couldn't put it down. You truly get immersed into the story. It felt so simple, beautiful, and honest. From the very first page I was hooked and the main characters were so well written I fell in love with them. Once the climax happened, my heart was aching for all the women in the story.

Being from America, I was fairly familiar with the Salem Witch Trails but not too much of others from around the world. This beautifully written historical fiction turns the light on to this different era of those trails. It's been a few days since I finished the novel and I still have the feeling I had when I read the book now while I'm just thinking of it.

Mar 24, 2020

Great historical fiction about a witch hunt somewhere other than Salem. Hargrave brings this neglected true story to life, fully immersing the reader in their struggle to adapt and survive. Alas, human nature rears its ugly head, and the consequences are dire. Hargrave masterfully explores the human psyche, and these lessons are needed as much today as 400 years ago.

Feb 29, 2020



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