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The Mercies

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  12,660 ratings  ·  2,097 reviews
After a storm has killed off all the island's men, two women in a 1600s Norwegian coastal village struggle to survive against both natural forces and the men who have been sent to rid the community of alleged witchcraft.

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Bergensdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fish
Hardcover, 345 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Little, Brown and Company (first published February 6th 2020)
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Anna This is a story about women's strength and ability to fend for themselves. It is also a story about racism towards indigenous people. Then as now inde…moreThis is a story about women's strength and ability to fend for themselves. It is also a story about racism towards indigenous people. Then as now independent and capable women as well as native people are seen as a threat to power and status quo presided, as a rule, by men. Both must be brought to heel by any brutal and murderous means. And yes, there is a tender love story between two women too who find pleasure in each other's company and body. (less)
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Kerri Davis
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Vardo, Norway, Christmas Eve 1617, a remote northern settlement where a storm of unusually immense and vicious proportions, completely wipes out the menfolk in this small fishing community, leaving the womenfolk bereft and without the means to provide for themselves.

Eighteen months later, the women have become adept at catching fish and are finally able to look after themselves, but their world is about to be turned upside down with the arrival of Absalom Cornet, a God-fearing man who has been s
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Reading this novel was like a feast to me. For one thing, the setting and all details included in this book are splendid. Scenery, clothes, food or architectural descriptions are splendidly researched and woven into the plot.
It is 1617, and a most terrifying storm that caims the lives of forty men begins what turns out to be a harrowing period for the women who are left behind in a small fishing village of Vardo in the north of Norway, and who can either try to survive by setting their own ways
Emer (A Little Haze)
'The Mercies' is Kiran Millwood Hargrave's first adult fiction novel having previously written both middle grade and YA novels. I had previously read her book 'The Island at the End of Everything' and while I admired her writing in that I was not wholly convinced as the narrative felt too simplistic; a finding I put down to the age category for which the book was primarily written for.

However, my experience with 'The Mercies' could not be more different. I adored this book. The story, the charac
Giorgia ~ Reads
3 stars

Apparently inspired by true events (to an extent) - although one can easily guess there was a certain amount of reality to it. Not just in the way that women were treated but the overall sense of bleakness and eerie feeling that was constant throughout.

I am conflicted when it comes to this book. I read it a couple of weeks ago and I thought I’d think on it for a while because I felt like I was supposed to like it more. I had a few issues with it but the biggest one was the fact that I
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it

’I remember once when runes gave you comfort, when sailors came to my father to cast bones and tell them of their time left to come. They are a language, Maren. Just because you do not speak it doesn’t make it devilry.’

back in the reviewing saddle.

so, no—as i anticipated, this was not scary enough to be a true ‘october is spoooooky’ read, and reviewing it in december feels even less spooky, but it is an excellent book nonetheless; female-fronted historical fiction that reminded me
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literary historical fiction fans
Recommended to Paula by: Barbara
Based on real events, THE MERCIES is a riveting book about what powerful men back in the 1600’s would do to quiet independent women.

Set in the remote town of Vardo in Northern Norway, a storm hits while all 40 men in the village perish while fishing. The women must fend for themselves to survive in the harsh environment. Some women look at the storm suspiciously while others prove their strength by setting out to feed the community. This is an era of male domination. A self-righteous zealot wit
Amalia Gkavea
''The storm comes in like a finger snap. That's how they'll speak in the months and years after, when it stops being only an ache behind their eyes and crushing at the base of their throats. When it finally fits into stories. Even then, it doesn't tell how it actually was. There are ways words fall down: they give shape too easily, carelessly. And there was no grace, no ease to what Maren saw.''

Norway, 17th century. Isolated from the mainland, the women of Vardø, a fishing village, have rema
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gothic-fiction
The Mercies is inspired by the real events of the Vardo Storm and the 1621 Witch Trials on the Norwegian Island of Vardo. A Beautifully written and vivid story. I was swept up in the storytelling of Kiran Millwood Hargrave and the plight of the people left behind after the storm. A vivid and compelling plot with ingesting and believable characters make this such a compelling story.

On Christmas Eve in 1617, the sea round the remote Norwegian Island of Vardo is thrown into a reckless strom. As Ma
Diane S ☔
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Finmark, Norway, 1617 in the fishing town of Vardo, a storm sweeps in, causing the deaths of forty men. All the names left are the elderly, the very young and the village cleric. Now, the women must fend for themselves, which presents a huge problem. Women are not supposed to wear pants not rushing boats.

I finished this book a few days ago and it hasn't left my thoughts. The atmosphere is so immersive, the characters so well drawn. Maren is a young 22, but capable and free thinking. Ursa, not us
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on a horrific true story of witchcraft deaths in Norway

The Mercies starts with a catastrophe, the deaths of 40 fishermen in a sea storm off the tiny village of Vardo in northern Norway in 1617.This horrific, treacherous storm killed all the able bodied adult men of the town in one fell swoop.The women and children are left bereft. How are they to eat, to live, without their men?

In tandem with the Vardo story is one of a young girl who is given in marriage by her father to a total stranger
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Christmas Eve, 1617. "...the storm comes in like a finger snap...the sea and sky clashing like a mountain splitting...All about her, other mothers, sisters, daughters are throwing themselves at the weather...a final flash of lightning illuminates the hatefully still sea...of their men, there is no sign...Papa used to say that the sea was the shape of their lives. They have always lived by its grace...but the storm has made it an enemy...".

All forty fishermen were killed in the Vardo Storm. The w
Dannii Elle
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1617. Norway. A group of women stand, bracing the harsh winds of a sudden storm, as they stare out at sea and watch the broken bodies of their men fling themselves to shore. The only males now left in their society are the very young or the very old; those who did not brave the fickle beast called nature and lose. They are isolated and must rely on themselves and each other if they are to survive the brutal land they call home.

A year passes but grief still lies thick upon their skin. The women
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jenna by: Collin
The last two days have been dark and dreary and cool -- the perfect weather in which to read this beautifully rendered novel set in northeastern Norway, a place of cold, dark, and long winters. It was not just the setting that was chilling, but the story itself.

In 1617, a ferocious storm blew over the island of Vardø, killing all of the men who were fishing at the time. The women were left to fend for themselves for a time until the witch hunt began by King Christian IV reached their small commu
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
[4+] Over the last few days I have been transported to an isolated fishing village in 17th century Norway. When all the able bodied men perish in a storm, women must step into the men's roles to survive. The novel's tension builds slowly and focuses on the relationship between two women, Marin and Ursa, the wife of the new commissioner, whose mission is to find and persecute witches. I loved every moment of my immersion in this beautifully rendered and chilling world!

Thank you to Little, Brown
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Norway 1617, the town of Vardo. Maren Bergensdatter and Diinna are just two of the women who have made their way through the slashing rain to the edge of their island to watch a terrible, colossal storm raining down havoc and destruction on the little fishing fleet caught in the middle of it.

Maren and the other women are not aware of the consequences that this storm is going to have on the lives of their island town. As the storm subsides, the women observe the detritus rolling in towards them
Vicky "phenkos"
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read this compulsively over two or three sittings. A brief historical note gives the setting for the events that form the backbone of this book: "on 24th December 1617, just off the coast of the island of Vardo, Norway's north-easternmost point, a storm lifted so suddenly eyewitnesses said it was as if it were conjured. In a matter of minutes, forty men were drowned. In this already remote and underpopulated place, it was a catastrophic event".

It would seem that the drowning of almost all the
ARC received in exchange for an honest review 🌊

Atmospheric and beautifully written, The Mercies takes inspiration from the real life disaster of 1617 where 40 men drowned on Christmas Eve off the coast of Vardo in Norway in a vicious and unnatural storm. For the women left behind they must fight not only for survival in the harsh climate, but also the resulting accusations of witchcraft which creates a growing level of mistrust between the women. Taking centre stage in this story are two women,
Judith E
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, nordic
After reading this I’m not sure which makes me angrier - the arrogance of the Protestant church including murder under the guise of Christianity, the racist prejudices against a minority, or the abusive self-righteous, domineering husbands. These are evils portrayed in Hargrave’s historically based account of the hardscrabble women of 17th century Finnmark, Norway.

Hargrove melds the harsh Norwegian landscape and its weather with a sense of foreboding. She has created personalities that immerse
F**k this book and what it did to my heart.

Two points of note:
1. This was not what I was expecting.
2. This book held me captivated from start to finish.

I honestly thought this was going to have real witchcraft but it's firmly on the solid land of Historical Fiction. We're in 1620 Norway, visiting a tiny commune in Vardo following an unexpected storm that's wiped out the majority of the male population. The women have to fend for themselves as best they can, before an outsider comes to take contr
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
And I thought the Salem Witch trials were bad! Hah! Apparently Christian IV of Denmark/Norway was obsessed with witchcraft and brought in experienced witch hunters from Scotland to hunt them down. He was particularly suspicious of the Sami, the northern Indigenous people and their customs. There ended up being 140 witch trials in Vardø between 1621 and 1663, resulting in the deaths of 91 people. The Steilneset Memorial was completed in 2011 to commemorate them.

Hargrave’s novel highlights the 161
Julie Christine
Christmas Eve, 1617. A sudden storm whips up just off the coast of the Arctic island of Vardø, in far eastern Norway. Forty men, the entire male population of the village, are snatched from their fishing boats and pulled deep into the sea where they had been seeking sustenance for their families.

Among the dead are Maren Magnusdatter's father, her brother, and her fiancé. Maren, her mother and her pregnant sister-in-law, an indigenous Sámi named Diina, are devastated but they cannot linger in th
“Inspired by the real events of the Vardo storm and the 1621 witch trials.”

On Christmas Eve 1617 the Vardo storm claims forty fishermen, among them brother and father of Maren. With nearly all men dead, the women of a tiny Arctic island of Vardo must fend for themselves. The women fish, chop the wood, ready the fields, butcher reindeer, tend the livestock. A new Pastor assigned to Vardo observes the women closely and asks for a commissioner to be assigned as he sees something that may not be a g
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a gorgeous novel. I felt like I was swimming in Hargrave's language in the way that the whale in the book swims through all of Maren's dreams, bringing both beauty and destruction.

I took courses in college on the history of witchcraft, so this story based on a real village in Norway in the early 1600s that accused men and women of witchcraft completely drew me in. The characters are all carefully rendered, but the landscape is the true star here. I think readers who love fiction based heavi
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2020
“The Mercies” is a feminist story based on the real events of the Vardø sea storm in Norway in 1617 that killed all the men of the village and the subsequent 1620 witch trials. I didn’t realize witch trials were a thing globally. Apparently, word spread that Norway had the most notorious witches and that the storm was a result of their communing with Satan to inherit the men’s properties. Over 100 “witches” were tortured and burned at the stake with all of the men killed being indigenous Sámi (e ...more
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Norway 1617, the town of Vardo. Maren Bergensdatter and Diinna are just two of the women who have made their way through the slashing rain to the edge of their island to watch a terrible, colossal storm raining down havoc and destruction on the little fishing fleet caught in the middle of it.

Maren and the other women are not aware of the consequences that this storm is going to have on the lives of their island town. As the storm subsides, the women observe the detritus rolling in towards them
Jessica Woodbury
I have read a lot more historical fiction than usual lately and I've found that I like when it gives a modern spin on things or opens up something I didn't know about before. In some ways, THE MERCIES should work for me because it's looking at a slice of history I didn't know about before: the Vardø Witch Trials in the early 1600's.

At first, I was interested and felt a lot of momentum, but it faded as this turned into the kind of story I had seen many times before, watching a community turn aga
Nenia ✨️ Socially Awkward Trash Panda ✨️ Campbell
I love books about girls gone mad mwahahaha
Lisa Vegan
I read this as a buddy read with GR friend Hilary. If not for reading it with a friend I don’t think I’d have gotten very far into it, even though I did want to finish it. Hilary sent me photos of the maps and I was glad to have them. My Kindle e-copy borrowed from the library was missing them.

Beautifully written. It’s powerful and it should be so that is a compliment but it was painful to read.

Grim. Brutal. Tragic. Sad. Heartwarming too at times but not enough to lift the gloom all that much.
Jasmine from How Useful It Is
This book is an excellent read! I enjoyed both main characters and dislike Ursa's husband. It makes sense because the author wrote him into an unpleasant man. I like Maren's strengths where she will do a man's job if it meant her family won't go hungry than to follow traditions and rely on others for help. I like Ursa's strengths in a way that she kept silence when her husband doesn't treat her well. This is my first read where the story takes place in Norway with the mentioned of Norwegian lang ...more
Mar 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
No matter that Pastor Kurrtson believed their survival after the storm to be a miracle: now Maren thinks that the mercies of God would have been better spent drowning them all.

I picked this up when I learned that the plot of The Mercies was based on a true story: After a freakish squall off a remote Norse island wiped out all of a village's men in the 1600's, the women were able to rebuild their lives, living successfully on their own, until accusations of witchcraft attracted powerful men t
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Kiran Millwood Hargrave is an award winning poet, playwright, and novelist.

Her books include the bestselling winner of the British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year and the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2017 The Girl of Ink & Stars, and Costa Book Awards- and Blue Peter Awards-shortlisted The Island at the End of Everything, and The Way Past Winter , Blackwell's Children's Book of the

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