Radio 2 Book Club - The Mercies

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The next book to be featured on the Jo Whiley Radio 2 Book Club will be The Mercies, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Kiran will be on the show on Monday 27 January and the book will be released on 6 February.

We have the chance for you to win 10 copies of this fantastic novel for your reading group! Please enter by Friday 31 January.

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We have an exclusive extract available for you to read.

The Mercies

On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves, the menfolk of Vardø wiped out in an instant.

Now the women must fend for themselves.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardø to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa finds 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, one he must root out at all costs.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and a love that may prove as dangerous as it is powerful.

Selection panel review

The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK. Our readers loved The Mercies – here are some of their comments:

“Millwood Hargrave brings a previously unexplored period of history to life. The text is peppered with Norwegian words and references to religious and spiritual practises that are part of the village’s everyday life, yet completely alien to those who live even a day’s walk away. Hargrave allows the reader to adjust to village life slowly through sights, sounds and smells. Just as we have become familiar with the village, a boatload of outsiders arrives, along with their ‘big city’ ways. We realise how small and dark the village looks to educated, well-travelled and wealthy men, and how suspicious the women (with their carved runes, woven poppets and men’s trousers) must seem. Many authors idealise ‘rustic’ living; Hargraves confronts the hardships that her village women face without judging their ‘provincial’ way of life. The Mercies explores the speed with which violence overtakes reason, particularly when women attempt to claim their equal share of power and control. This book is interesting, enjoyable and above all, a fantastic read.”

“This is definitely not the sort of book that I normally read, and so I’m always pleased when I find things to recommend about it. Mainly, it’s the sense of transporting you to this Norwegian world in the early 17th century that is done so brilliantly – you definitely feel fully immersed in the setting, which is one of the authors key strengths in all her books. The idea of a village losing nearly all of its male population and the women having to fend for themselves in a world that didn’t see this as commonplace is rife for discussion, as is the God-fearing man coming to help purge this place of evil and the suffering that he causes. It’s all rooted in historical truth too. It’s certainly a great fit for the Radio 2 Book Club.”

About the author

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Kiran Millwood Hargrave is an award-winning poet, playwright, and novelist. Her bestselling works for children include The Girl of Ink & Stars , and have won numerous awards including the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize, The British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, and the Blackwell’s Children’s Book of the Year, and been shortlisted for prizes such as the Costa Children’s Book Award and the Blue Peter Best Story Award. The Mercies is her first novel for adults. Kiran lives by the river in Oxford, with her husband, artist Tom de Freston, and their rescue cat, Luna.

A word from Kiran

“Libraries make readers, and so are responsible for most writers, too. This is certainly the case for me – I spent my childhood discovering books at our weekly visits to the local library, and continue to find gems this way. So, for The Mercies to be selected by librarians for the BBC Radio 2 Book Club feels like the rightful and wonderful closing of a circle. Thank you for giving my book the chance to be discovered by readers, who might otherwise have not found it, and thank you for supporting and enriching my life in so many ways!”

Get involved

Tune in to Jo Whiley’s show on Monday 27 January to hear a live interview with Kiran.

Have you read The Mercies? You can share your thoughts with us on Twitter using #TheMercies.

You can also follow Kiran.

Planning to buy The Mercies for your group? Buy books from Hive and support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no extra cost to you.

Want to make sure you get the latest news? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

You can join the Radio 2 Book Club Facebook group, and also follow Jo Whiley on Twitter.


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