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The Mercies 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 historical fic 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 summoned from his home in Scotland to bring the women of Vardo to heel, and to ensure that they too are God fearing, and worship at the local church, but primarily, unbeknownst to these women, he s also a witch finder The main protagonists are Maren, born and bred in Vardo, who lost her father and brother in the storm, and Absalom s wife Ursa, a woman of genteel breeding, born and brought up in the city of Bergen, who is trapped in a loveless arranged marriage Despite the fact that they come from completely different backgrounds, Maren and Ursa soon form a bond, and find solace in each other s company, but the whole village has much to fear where Absalom is concerned, including his wife.The writing is beautiful, often crude, echoing the privations of an impoverished community at the mercy of a ghastly climate The reader is overwhelmed by the bleak environment and the conditions it imposes Knowing The Mercies was based on the real events of the Vardo storm and the witch trials of 1621, makes it even harder to read, such is the brutality used against those accused of witchcraft, but it s hauntingly beautiful and highly recommended Thank you to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan, Picador, for my ARC for which I have given an honest unbiased review in exchange 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 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, 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

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