Kiran wrote... The Mercies


The Times Number 1 Bestseller, The Sunday Times Bestseller. Winner of a Betty Trask Award 2021, Winner of Le Prix Rive Gauche à Paris 2020. New York Times 100 Most Notable Books 2020. USA Today Best Book of 2020. Amazon Best Book of the Month. Finalist for the Prix Femina. Shortlisted for the Prix des Lecteurs. Longlisted for Not the Booker Prize.

Beneath the sunken sun on Christmas Eve 1617, where Finnmark, Norway, scatters into its northernmost islands, twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter watches 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 Vardø must fend for themselves.

Three years later, beneath a midnight sun, a sinister figure arrives in Vardø. 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 Vardø, 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 and terrible evil.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, this is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the everdark edge of civilisation. For readers of Burial RitesThe Miniaturist and Wolf Winter. Available from Picador (UK), Little, Brown (US), and twenty other territories from February 2020.

Read the first chapter exclusively on Bustle.


The Mercies is among the best novels I’ve read in years. In addition to its beautiful writing, its subject matter is both enduring and timely.

The New York Times,

A gripping novel inspired by a real-life witch hunt. Hargrave's prose is visceral and immersive; the muddy, cold life and politics of a fishing village leap to vivid life. But her most vital insights are about the human heart: how terrifyingly quickly prejudices can turn into murder, and how desperately we need love and courage to oppose it. Beautiful and chilling.

Madeline Miller, author of Circe

The Mercies took my breath away. A beautifully rendered portrait of a community, a landscape, a relationship, I read it with equal parts hope and dread. Kiran has masterfully built up an incredible claustrophic atmosphere, shot through with delicate intimacy. On finishing it I pressed the book to me, hoping to absorb some of her skill.

Tracy Chevalier, author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring

Writing a feminist historical novel always involves a delicate tightrope walk between modern ideas and cultural reality. “The Mercies” succeeds in that walk, and on finishing you may find that you’ve been holding your breath in hopes that Maren will survive.

The Washington Post,

A book not only for our times but for any time in which people have loved and raged and wondered if there was more. Millwood Hargrave is a whirlwind, storm-building talent.

Daisy Johnson, author of Everything Under

Every once in a while, a modern day parable, perfectly told, reflects all that could happen in a world gone mad. Kiran Millwood Hargrave has written a novel for our times with artistry and skill. Maren's story is powerful, at turns, it is disturbing, and ultimately illuminating. You will ponder it long after you finish this magnificent work.

Adriana Trigiani, author of Big Stone Gap

The Mercies is both harrowing and beautiful. Through mesmerizing prose, Kiran Millwood Hargrave depicts the brutality of life for women on an isolated island in 1620 Norway during the witch trials. Yet amidst this horror and within the punishing landscape, she creates a set of brilliant characters and a moving love story full of tenderness and hope. This is a book to be savoured and read time and again.

Jenny Quintana, author of The Missing Girl

Unquestionably the book of the 2018 London Book Fair.

The Bookseller,