Book Review

Review: The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

There were lots of things to like about this novel – it’s as disconcerting as the midnight sun, shows the fear of men and the power of women and set in a fascinating period. It’s a historical novel, but not quite as we know it.

The Mercies

Title: The Mercies
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Pages: 352
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: 6th February 2020

Set in an isolated fishing village in Norway in the 1600s, The Mercies shows what women will do to survive after a freak storm wipes out virtually all the men in their village. In a time of religious zealousness, survival can be seen as impious, strength as rebellion and thinking for yourself as dangerous.

Maren saw her father, brother and fiancé drown and has been left to survive. Ursa, married to a Scotsman and brought across the sea by a man on a witch-hunt, is drawn in closer and closer to Maren and her life, and away from her own husband.

In the same kind of style as The Glass Woman or a Sarah Perry novel, The Mercies brings a fear of the unusual and the fear of God into a frightening combination that ramps up the tension and leads to a horrific conclusion.

Part of what makes this kind of novel work well, is that you know it won’t end well, and often you know what will happen, but the tension is built by slowly leading you there. At times I found the pacing to be slower than necessary, but perhaps I should learn more patience.

The author has taken a genuine event and effectively turned it into something even more sinister.

4.5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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