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Publisher's Summary

The Sunday Times best seller and BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick 2020.

For fans of Circe and The Handmaid’s Tale, Kiran Millwood Hargrave's The Mercies is a story about a love that could prove as dangerous as it is powerful.

Winter, 1617. The sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. A young woman, Maren, watches as the men of the island, out fishing, perish in an instant. Vardø is now a place of women.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilised world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of the island to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In her new home, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place flooded with a terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs....

©2020 Kiran Millwood Hargrave (P)2020 Macmillan Publishers International Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Beautiful and chilling." (Madeline Miller, author of Circe)

"Took my breath away." (Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring)

What listeners say about The Mercies

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Haunting

This novel is evocative and will have you thinking about it long after you've finished. I can't get this book out of my head, and the narrator was perfect.

1 person found this helpful

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great narrator

I enjoyed this story although found it slow to get into due to the many characters to be introduced before all came together in the same place. the narrator did a good job with separating voices and accents for different characters.
The author has included a good amount of detail about the time period the story is set in without it overwhelming the characters stories.

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Hargraves paints pictures with her words

Amazingly written and narrated, Hargrave transports you into the harsh lives of the woman struggling to survive in the sexist world of religious zealots. it is a little slower than her first book that I fell in love with, the Deathless Girls, but a gripping read nevertheless

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A fantastic, emotionally impactful story.

This story has so much emotional depth, and the performance by Jessie Buckley only makes it better. Highly recommend if you want a book that makes you think and feel.

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  • Needles
  • 08-07-2021

"Clawth"

"Clawth"
That's how the narrator Jessie Buckley pronounces the word cloth. Which seems insignificant, except when it's uttered about every 30 seconds. The narrator's weird mis-pronounciations and "Norwegian" accent only make this rather turgid book more unenjoyable.
The subject of witch trials in a wildly remote part of Scandinavia is darkly fascinating but I think there’s deeper understanding of this to be gained from the Zumthor/Bourgeois installation at the site of the trials than from this novel. To say there are a number of plot-holes is putting it mildly, overall this just feels turgid, and after not much happening for the first 150 pages, it then lurches awkwardly towards an ending that feels both lazy and melodramatic.

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  • Michelle
  • 04-04-2020

Transported back 400 years to Vardo

A slow and sensitive account of women and men of the past. How beliefs, so absurd, could bring about the senseless torture and death of innocence.

The narrator was wonderful and has a brilliant knack for accents. Wonderful performance.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Donna-Sue Pittaway
  • 09-03-2020

Scandinavian magic

Started this book because it took my fancy off the back of Stacey Halls- The Familiars, it covers some similar themes, witch-hunts in the 1600’s and persecution of women trying to do their best in difficult circumstances. What drew me in was the idea of an entire Scandinavian island devoid of men due to a horrific storm, how the women coped in such a desperately sad situation in a hostile environment. It is only when the male characters start appearing do things start deteriorating and the small society starts collapsing inward with fingers being pointed. A wonderfully descriptive tale with a beautiful relationships between women made this an incredible listen. Jesse Buckley who narrates deserves a medal for her accents and atmospheric delivery, wonderful winter to spring read!

8 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mair
  • 02-03-2020

Fabulous

The writing (and narration), transported me to another time and another country. I saw their lives, understood their motivations, lived inside their heads. The absolute cruelty and brutality of the men pitted against the women's realities. The collision of the women in their own doom. It is a superb piece of writing and narration and I couldn't stop listening. The narrator uses enough accent to bring the women's names and the places alive, the research is impeccable. I loved it.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Iona
  • 15-02-2020

Mesmerizing

The tale is beautifully told. The narrator masters the Norwegian prononciation of place names and characters which is crucial.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Mauve dreamer
  • 26-03-2020

Hauntingly beautiful story.

Fell in love with book. Wonderful read. Read it. very special book. nuances and nothing I didn't like. I will read it again. A real gem.

4 people found this helpful

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  • BexB
  • 01-03-2020

Wonderfully descriptive

I loved this book. The story is powerful and gripping and the narrator tells it brilliantly.
At first I found it hard to get my head around the pronunciation of the names and places but I soon had my ear in and the names were tripping through my head between the times I listened.

4 people found this helpful

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  • M Hauge
  • 08-01-2021

Fascinating

As a Norwegian I found this book very interesting and all credit to the narrator for making a real effort to pronounce Norwegian names and words!
A grim bit of history made in to a good fictional story.

3 people found this helpful

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  • miss e m aguero
  • 03-05-2020

Kiran is a master story teller

From the first words it was gripping and vivid, the characters coming alive. Not characters in a novel, but real identifiable women, no matter that they lived 400 years ago. They were so real, i was worried about what was going to happen to Ursa when I wasn't listening - that is something that has never happened to me before! Beautifully read as well. This is one of those stories that will stay with me because I felt it so deeply and cared.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Zephyrtog
  • 12-05-2020

For most of this book nothing happens

35/40 chapters are observational. There are 5 chapters where an actual story takes place at the end. I would've abandoned it after the first 5 if it were not my book club selection. Frustrating because the story at the end was compelling but rushed and no real lead up to the events.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jackie Black
  • 07-07-2020

Thoughtful story

Well written. A little slow after the start but turned into a story of how history and ignorance caused pain and injustice to woman.

1 person found this helpful

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