{Audiobooks} The Mercies Author Kiran Millwood Hargrave – Albawater.co

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 different I adored this book The story, the characters, the pacing, the emotion Simply fantastic The book is inspired by real events and traces the events that unfolded in a small community in Norway in and after 1617 and focuses on how the people of Vard dealt with the aftermath of a terrible storm that claimed the lives of forty fishermen practically the entire community s male population Primarily, the novel follows the stories of two young women, Maren and Ursa Maren is originally from Vard and has lost both her father and brother to the storm and the man to whom she was betrothed The loss of her menfolk forced Maren to move outside the expected role of a woman in those times and particularly along with her friend Kirsten had to redraw the lines of what women could and could not do e.g take on a male role such as going out to sea fishing to provide for the community.Meanwhile in another part of Norway, Ursa is a young woman caring for her poorly sister when her father tells her that she is to be married to a man named Absalom Cornet Together with her new husband, Ursa moves to the community of Vard where Absalom has been granted the role of commissioner and is tasked with bringing religious order and righteousness to this community And what follows is a story of mistrust, fear, propaganda and bigotry as it becomes apparent that Absalom is a man keen to accuse anyone that doesn t follow his zealous beliefs a witch or somehow involved in evilness and witchcraft This was such an incredibly interesting book to read From the opening page I was immediately hooked The atmosphere that Millwood Hargrave creates in this novel is palpable There is such a delicious air of tension and an almost eerie ethereal quality to the prose When required the prose is perfectly spartan to illustrate the bleakness of the Norwegian climate and then at times it can become so wonderfully rich and deep when describing the characters emotions and motivations And the main characters of Maren and Ursa are truly beautifully written They feel so alive, so vital amidst this bleak terrain And I really did just fall in love with them both and their relationship with each other This book is so wonderfully subtle at times that it gives the story and the characters the perfect chance to really blossom as the pages go by And once the climax of the major storylines are reached it s so painfully heartbreaking that I challenge anyone not to be deeply moved by the story of these two women and the women of Vard that were so callously accused of witchcraft for simply being independent, free thinkers and or from an indigenous community This is a wonderfully written historical fiction that shines a spotlight on a less well known era of witch trials It gives such voice and agency to female characters and makes this time period and these characters truly feel alive and thusly, I am rating this four and a half stars Rounded to five An e copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Picador, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest reviewFor reviews and book related chat check out my blog 4.5 stars gifted picadorbooks If you re at all interested in witchcraft which I apparently have been this month, and always then you ll want to keep an eye on one of Picador s most anticipated titles of 2020 The Mercies is set around the 1620s in Finnmark, Norway after a freak accident kills almost all the men in a remote community, which leads the women to become independent All of that changes when an infamous Scottish witch hunter arrives with his terrified Norwegian wife, intent on spreading King James VI s reign..I loved learning about the 17th century around Norway I didn t know about the S mi and how they were and are discriminated against Hargrave creates some truly amazing characters here, including Kerstin and Maren, as well as some great baddies, made even chilling by the fact they are based on real people..That s always the case with novels based around witch hunts real women and men lost their lives and neighbours turned on one another over petty squabbles I like how the island is not presented as some women only utopia Life is hard for them, there are women of all personalities and degrees of faith who clash with one another But it s not all dark alright, it s mostly dark there s a beautifully written, slow burning romance throughout the novel which I could not get enough of.I m not really one for adaptations but I can see this as a PERFECTLY brooding Netflix series with a great cast and incredible surroundings This will be a great one to read in winter by the fire, getting lost in the far reaches of the Arctic, completely wrapped up in these women s lives My only one complaint is that it slows down a bit too much near the end, but in all honesty that might have just been my restless christmassy mood making me impatient 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 of the novels of jessie burton in its similarly strong character development, its attention to detail, and its perspective of women in a historical context and a time period setting that hasn t already been done to death can we agree that we neverever need to publish another WWII novel The Mercies is based on the real true events which occurred in 1617 in a fishing village located on one of norway s tiny islands when a sudden freak storm came, saw, and conquered assaulting the fishing boats that were just heading out with the majority of the village s menfolk on board, killing forty men in a matter of minutes this brief storm reduced the island s population dramatically, leaving behind only the women and girls, the very young boys and elderly men to survive in an unforgiving climate whose livelihood had depended on their fishermen it was also a time where political power used religious devotion as a tool to get rid of undesirables you know, that one time in history the island s women have very little opportunity for grieving their husbands and sons when their bodies wash ashore, they are collected and stored until the ground becomes soft enough to allow for their burial, and in the absence of able bodied men, some of the women defy convention and take on the necessary task of fishing, to prevent their people starving to death theirs is a village that has been long isolated from the greater world, and has for the most part maintained a perfunctory relationship with religion although some are devout than others, the island s kirke is as much a town hall for the community to gather as it is a sacred place, and the region s indigenous sami people have contributed their own rituals to the fabric of the village one of these women has even married into the community a woman named diinna, made a widow by the storm, whose family s cultural influence has long been a part of life on the island Her father is a noaidi, a shaman of good standing Before the kirke was fully established, their neighbor Baar Ragnvalsson and many other men went to him for charms against bad weather They had stopped lately, with new laws brought in to ban such things, but still Maren sees the small bone figures that the Sami say will protect against bad luck on most doorsteps Pastor Gursson always turned a blind eye, though Toril and her ilk urged him to come down harder on such practices.after the storm, in the absence of male influence or supervision, the women step up to fill the void capable, independent, unbound by conventional roles and duties one woman even going so far as to wear her late husband s trousers his TROUSERS the women are adjusting and getting by just fine on their own until the arrival of absalom cornet a scottish commissioner and witch hunter with him is his new wife ursa, a young woman accustomed to city life, luxurious surroundings, and servants unprepared both for the barebones living conditions of the island and the homemaking duties of a wife cornet has been summoned by king s orders to restore godliness to the island and is horrified by the presence of runes and other evidence of heathen savagery he encounters before long, some of the devout women flutter under his masculine authority, relieved and reassured by a man s presence, and to ingratiate themselves with him, they begin to denounce their less conventional neighbors, in the way of all of history s witch hunting situations unlike salem, where the accused were hung or smooshed by rocks, here they burn witches alive and HOOO the witch burning scene in this book is particularly horrifying the story is carried by maren, who has lost her own betrothed in the storm, and ursa two unlikely women thrown together by circumstance, forming an unexpectedly close, and very dangerous, bond.this is hargrave s adult debut, and it s an impressive one the descriptions were strong, and reminded me of Tidelands the similarly situated themed witch series opener by philippa gregory a hardscrabble existence on a bleak and tiny island where nature is unforgiving and women are at the mercy of powerful men and the gossip of bored or resentful neighbors, women whose reputations could be destroyed with a word or a suspicion unlike gregory s novel, this one has merits apart from the descriptive finesse, most notably in the character development ursa is especially well written a woman wrenched away from her home and her beloved, chronically ill, sister into a marriage arranged out of financial necessity the culture shock of moving from comfortable, although faded, opulence to severe privation the psychological shock of going from being a pampered daughter to becoming the wife of a man of deep religious conviction who is proud and ambitious but without any gentleness to him he has no understanding of how to treat a lady, unless it s a witch he s burning, and the wedding night sequence is excruciating to read, although her long wait for him to come to their room is a beautifully written scene of nervous expectation, ripe with foreshadowing.She removes the chamber pot from sight, slides the warming pan from one side of the bed to the other There are pale stains on the mattress, and the straw has broken through in places She can t face the greying pillow and so wraps her old nightdress about it.She lies ever so carefully, makes sure her hair is about her shoulders the way Agnete told her makes it look like she lies in a field of shining yellow wheat Lamplight comes irregularly from the dock, and through the wooden walls she hears coarse voices speaking English and Norwegian and French and other languages she can t recognize.Beneath is all sits a creaking sound, like their stair at home, or Father s knees when he sits For a long while she can t place it, and wonders if it is inside her own mind But then she realizes it is the ice, relocking about the shipsmaren is also a very strong character although island born and bred, she feels compassion and patience for ursa than many of her neighbors ursa stands out a pretty flower in a stark landscape, and maren is drawn to her, helping ease her transition to island living, soon understanding that ursa s domestic helplessness is circumstantial, not a result of laziness, and that her life and her marriage are not as pleasant as one might expect learning how much she has sacrificed down to the most essential part of her identitybecause they will use his customs for naming, she is Mistress Absalom Cornet Herself, lost inside his name. this is a gorgeous piece of feminist historical fiction, full of female awakening and empowerment, despite the high cost of independence, and there is beautiful and subtle perspective writing as the two women see in each other a reflected kindred spirit, and become to each other than they could ever have foreseen it s not out for a while, but it s worth waiting for like this review TIL or back in october IL that lapps is apparently an offensive term SPOOKYMONTH WINDS DOWN i have no expectations of this actually being a horror novel, but i won it thru the gr giveaways and it has been patiently waiting for me to finish my horror only october readings, so in these last few days of shocktober witches not horror, but maybe gentle alarm come to my blog 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 on the wavesThe women of Vardo gather at the scooped out edge of their island, and though some are still shouting, Maren s ears ring with silence Before her, the harbour is wiped smooth as a mirror Her Jaw is caught on the hinges of itself, her tongue dripping blood warm down her chin Her needle is threaded in the web between her thumb and forefinger, the wound a neat circle of pink As she watches, a final flash of lightning illuminates the hatefully still sea, and from its blackness rise oars and rudders and a full mast with gently stowed sails, like underwater forests uprooted Of their men, there is no sign.The women of Vardo don t know it yet but every man of the fishing fleet has drowned, including Maren s father and brother Her brother was Diinna s husband and his loss is felt by both women.There used to be fifty three males living in the town, now there are thirteen Two are merely babies, three are elders, and the rest are young boys who were too young to be out with the fleet.Superstition is rife The women start looking for answers as to what caused this tragedy The storm abnormally strong and swift They talk of signs that suggested this was going to happen, a tern, a whale swimming upside down, signs that the women should have noticed The devil himself is blamed for the storm and the loss of their men Then the talk inevitably turns to leaving The women have relations and family in other towns Serious talk and consideration bandied about of leaving to the larger cities of Varanger and Tromso Cities a good distance away It is finally decided that they will wait for word from Kiberg, which they expect will arrive by boat now the storm has dispersed.Diinna is of the indigenous Sami people Charms, talking to spirits to appease the weather, vital for a fishing population, is simply their way of life Maren s father was a noaidi, a shaman, a mystic Many from the town would come to him for charms and trinkets, protection from the sea and foul weather However, King Christian IV is a strict Lutheran and times have changed, and laws have been brought in by the church banning such acts, although the pastor would normally let such things pass, turning away as if not noticing Christianity has taken hold here and there is bad blood between the Christians and the Sami, who they consider pagans that follow the old ways The narrative now jumps to 1619, Bergen, which is in the southwest of Norway, almost as far away from Vardo, which is way up in the north, as you can get Ursa has no choice in the husband she is to marry, she does not even get to see him before her father has agreed happily to the marriage Commissioner Absalom Cornet has come all the way from Scotland and his marriage proposal is a simple sentence uttered to Ursa and her father, I am in need of a wife Commissioner Cornet has been sent from Scotland under the orders of Lensmann Cunningham to ostensibly stamp out all heathen presence and activity from Vardo Ursa s father is, if not euphoric, then ecstatic, that his daughter will be marrying a man in such a prestigious position Ursa s feelings, well they hardly matter do they When the Commissioner leaves Ursa watches him from an upstairs window and thinks,Absalom Cornet It sounds less like a prayer, and like a knell Ursa has no idea how prescient this thought will turn out to be.Absalom and Ursa set sail for Vardo, where Lensmann Cunningham will meet up with them.On the long sea voyage to Vardo, Ursa comes to see her husband s true side and realises that she is trapped with no chance of escape Upon overhearing her talking to the captain in Norwegian, Absalom becomes quite angry with her, he then asks the captain of the ship to teach him NorwegianUrsa feels a noose slip about her neck Soon she will have nowhere to hide, not even her mother tongue She excuses herself early, leaves them talking in the lamplight She feels, once again, quite alone When the ship finally pulls into Vardo the women are all there to witness the arrival Maren thinks that the last time all the women were gathered here together like this was the night of the storm, the night they lost the men.It is Maren who runs back to get Ursa a coat when they make land and an instant connection is formed between the two as Ursa thanks her.There is an almost ominous feeling shrouding over this initial landing, and the weather, as if in agreement starts to rain.A little later, when Absalom publicly addresses the women, he tells them that,Too long you have been left here without guidance I am here to offer it, and I must ask you to be vigilant A dramatic statement that has a forbidding feeling attached to it.It does not take long for Maren to realise that Ursa is floundering in this new way of life and has no idea about the things that the women of Vardo find basic and rudimental Marlen takes it upon herself to help Ursa, and a strong bond of friendship is formed between the two.These two characters who come from the two extreme ends of their country, come from lives that are universes apart, become closer and closer as each day passes Are their feelings passing over the line of friendship What will happen if Absalom finds out Then the Lensmann, who Absalom has been waiting for finally arrives, and the true, horrible purpose of Absalom s appointment to Vardo becomes painfully clear To think that this book is based on a real event and real characters is chilling but not surprising We have inflicted horror upon horror upon ourselves throughout our brief history Looking at the world today, I would like to think we have moved forwards a little We certainly don t burn witches at the stake any, but do we tolerate beliefs that are not our own Do we persecute those who choose a different faith A different style of life Will we ever truly change This wonderful novel will be published by Little Brown and Company in February 2020 Thankyou to them and Netgally for the ARC. Maren and Ursa are from very different backgrounds, but they are women in a world run by men Their friendship is the only bright light, and even that might not be enough to save them.I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.Maren has grown up Vard , a small community where the men go out to sea fishing, whilst the women tend the home.A sudden and ferocious storm kills almost all of their men in a single day.After the grieving period is done, the aide sent from other parts of Norway are not enough and they are wasting away from hunger The women dare to take on the role of going out onto the sea and catching their own fish.Over time, their independence grows, they find that they do not need men to rule them, they only need each other.In time, this heresy is noticed by the wrong men, who come seeking to stamp out witchcraft, and any sign of women acting out of turn.Ursa is the daughter of a merchant who has fallen on hard times She does her duty, marrying Absalom Cornet, a man with an important appointment by the King of Norway Except his duty will drag her away from her sister and everything she knows, to the middle of nowhere.Having been brought up a young lady, her basic skills are non existent, and she is completely reliant on Maren helping her run her home.This was a beautifully written historical novel, following Maren and Ursa, and their lives in Vard , which has always been a tough place to live The consequences of the storm are about to bring a whole load of new difficulties.As some women find independence, others lean heavily on their faith, believing God will provide Dangerous factions arise in the small community A divide that Absalom Cornet, and other ambitious people, are only too keen to use.The relationship between Maren and Ursa is so sweet It is at the core of everything, but the depth of their feelings is only expressed near the end.First and foremost, they are friends, providing support for each other at every turn.This is based on real event in Norway s history, and this story feels very alive and believable throughout There is so much about the oppression of women that still resonates today.I really enjoyed this and look forward to reading of the author s work. It is a small world Just 4 weeks ago I was in Vardo which is the scene of this most impressive novel which is based around the true events of a mighty storm that killed 40 men, the persecution of the Sami people and the infamous witches trials of the early 17th century There is a strange isolated but beautiful set of memorials at Vardo that pays tribute to the women murdered by the religious fervour, bigotry and fear of the time The old fort which was the scene of the trials still is manned and is an eerie reminder of the history of Finnmark.The book uses sparse and bleak language to capture the mood of the women of Vardo, their isolation and domination by men and religion It also tells of how a tribe of fanatics formed under the newly arrived Commissioner sent to purify the town of its evil To balance the bleakness of the story, there is a love story between the young Maren and the Commissioner s wife which adds some hope but is shrouded by the dominating and demented Commissioner.Part The Handmaid s Tale, part Burial Rites but uniquely different this is one of my faves of 2019 My thanks to NetGalley for a chance to review and to for his review which introduced me to this book. I ll let my quote sum up my response to this masterpiece With her characteristic tenderness and prose that tides between the carnal and the sublime, Kiran Millwood Hargrave illuminates one of the darkest chapters of our history In The Mercies, she sweeps us to a place that dazzles and reeks and chills to the bone, where the hearts of women roar louder than storms She is an outstanding talent, and wherever her imagination sails next, I will follow. You think it mercy, what has happened here To think otherwise is a sin Such a tragic tale of love lost and found Beautifully written, evocative and brutal setting, the claustrophobia and tension of an isolated fishing village captured in grim detail. After A Storm Has Killed Off All The Island S Men, Two Women In A S Norwegian Coastal Village Struggle To Survive Against Both Natural Forces And The Men Who Have Been Sent To Rid The Community Of Alleged WitchcraftFinnmark, Norway, Twenty Year Old Maren Bergensdatter Stands On The Craggy Coast, Watching The Sea Break Into A Sudden And Reckless Storm Forty 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 Northern Town Of Vard Must Fend For Themselves Three Years Later, A Sinister Figure Arrives 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 Vard , 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 Pushed Together And 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 Vard S Very Existence Inspired By The Real Events Of The Vard Storm And The Witch Trials, The Mercies Is A Feminist Story Of Love, Evil, And Obsession, Set At The Edge Of Civilization In brief Very well written very bleak indeed.This is set on the remote Norwegian island of Vard On Christmas Eve 1617 forty fisherman set out to fish A sudden, freak and very violent storm kills all of them Among them are Maren s father and brother She watches it happen This is her story of the aftermath The writing immediately creates a feeling of a cold and bleak land where the men who the community depended on are no longer there What will those who are left do There is a real sense of isolation and some desperation at the start of this There is also a division within the community There are those who follow the kirk and those whose interests lie with the Sami way of life and approach to religion As time goes by this division become important A man arrives from Scotland to take the position of Lensmann at the request of the King He brings his wife with him and is tasked to deal with the threat to the kirk Can those who do not attend be called witches The story is about the community and Maren in particular We see the life she leads, her family and those who are or who become her friends There are the ordinary minor events in life and those that are far significant I guess I never found myself fully engaged with Maren despite everything she went through Even a couple of weeks later I m not sure whether that is my fault or something about her character I would stress that I was on her side I simply never felt part of it.This is generally about women in what is predominately a mans world women at best are accessories It is also about a world where different is unacceptable and wrong Above all it is about independent women and what was probably a gross crime against humanity It s powerful.There is a sense in which I found this unremittingly bleak, indeed unpleasant, at times Would I have chosen to read it maybe not However the writing is at a very high level The story telling is so powerful in an almost understated way If by any chance I needed convincing at the end you discover that this story is based on real events The lives of the women concerned are fiction the overall story is not Maybe I didn t quite enjoy this read however I am sure that I will never regret reading it.Note I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair reviewhttps viewson.org.uk historical fic