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An Evening with Alastair Sawday

20th October, 2021, Steyning Cricket Club

The Mercies

I wolfed this astonishing, heart-rending novel down in a couple of days! An entrancing and beautifully-written novel by an author who has hitherto written for teenagers.

‘The Mercies’ is based on the real-life drama of a storm near the fishing village of Vardo in Northern Norway in 1617, which wiped out the male population of the small village, leaving the heart-broken women to fend for themselves, which they do, quite ably, until a Scottish Commissioner is sent North to tame their unseemly ways. The growing friendship between the Commissioner’s young wife, Ursa, and Maren, a feisty village woman, forms the centre-piece of the novel, which gathers pace as the full horror of the Commissioner’s mission becomes clear. An incredible glimpse into the havoc wreaked in a God-fearing fishing village by superstition and prejudice at the time of the Witch Trials.

‘Beautiful and chilling’ – Madeline Miller, author of Circe