Listen free for 30 days

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

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

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    177
  • 4 Stars
    76
  • 3 Stars
    25
  • 2 Stars
    7
  • 1 Stars
    2
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    189
  • 4 Stars
    48
  • 3 Stars
    7
  • 2 Stars
    4
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    153
  • 4 Stars
    62
  • 3 Stars
    29
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    1

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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!

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

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