16 March 2020

Review: The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

Inspired by true events, The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave begins with a sudden and horrific storm that drowns forty fishermen from the seaside village of Vardo, in Norway. It's the year 1617 and the storm leaves the women grieving and having to fend for themselves.

Maren is 20 and lost both her brother and father in the storm. Her intended also drowned, her brother's wife is pregnant and she lives with her mother in the remote coastal village.

Eighteen months after the storm, Commissioner Cornet is sent to Vardo in response to fears the island is host to Lapps - or the Sami people - who aren't practising the approved religion of the time. The Commissioner's new wife Ursa has been raised in a house of means in Bergen and their posting in Vardo comes as a complete culture shock. The Commissioner has been given a mission to root out any evil that resides in Vardo however Ursa is focussed on making a new friend in Maren.

The story unfolds from the perspectives of both Maren and Ursa as we begin to learn about the women and develop empathy for their individual plights. Religion, superstition and belief play a big role in The Mercies and the blurb doesn't hide the fact the book is inspired by the 1621 witch trials in the region.

This historical fiction novel is dark and full of foreboding from beginning to end. The harsh and unforgiving landscape along with the tough living conditions put me in mind of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

The Mercies is a novel about grief, loss, friendship, survival, relationships (good and bad), suspicion, religion and accusation. It's a bleak novel but it's also a tender novel about the importance love and hope.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:

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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Theresa, it's good to know we both agree on this one :-)

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  2. I thought this was terrific, bleak and yet tender is a great description.

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  3. Love the cover, but... sounds a bit too dark for me, to be honest. Thanks for the review, though!

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    Replies
    1. I agree Davida, it's a stunning cover but completely understand if you don't think this is for you.

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Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!

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