Meet the author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
September 25th 2021
I adored The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Bold and atmospheric, it’s an absorbing read which carries you on the journey of a love story set in the midst of a community marred by suspicion and set to tear itself apart.
It’s brilliantly concocted and told with a hugeness of heart that completely floored me. Anyone who loved Maggie O’Farrell’s bestselling novel, Hamnet, will, I think recognise in this novel the same skill of creating atmosphere, mystery and tenderness of feeling. Enormously, whole-heartedly recommended.
I wrote The Mercies as an attempt to give voice to the women on the tiny Arctic Circle island of Vardø. The women watched as their men drowned at sea, and then were persecuted as witches three years later, accused of causing the storm that killed them. But what of the three years of survival – is it possible they even thrived?
I’m delighted to be chosen by LoveMyRead. All I want is for my story to reach and connect with as many readers as possible, and I hope you enjoy getting to know Ursa and Maren as much as I did.
· What type of person do you hope reads your book?
My ideal reader is any reader, but I hope this especially reaches people who love words as much as plot, as I do. Who want the telling to envelop them, and to sink into the setting.
· What's the most unexpected thing you learnt while writing the book?
That my tank can get empty, and that I need to read and rest to refill it. Writing this was a draining, if rewarding, experience, and I’ve learnt a lot about stamina and self care!
· What's your favourite first line in literature?
‘Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.’
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
· Is there one book you wished you'd written? Why?
I hope this isn’t a glib response, but within every book I’ve written there exists a perfect version of that story, as I first imagined it. It’s like the Queen in a hive of bees, ideal and, of course, unreachable. All you can manage is the hive around it, some structure to support it. This isn’t to say the books aren’t exactly as they should be – but I will always wish I could write that perfect, humming form.
· What are you working on next?
Currently I’m in the final strait of my next novel for adults. It’s about mania, pregnancy, and bees (hence the metaphor!)
Vardø, Finnmark, north-eastern Norway
Last night Maren dreamt a whale beached itself on the rocks outside her house.
She climbed down the cliff to its heaving body and rested her eye against its eye, wrapped her arms across the great stinking swell. There was nothing she could do for it but this.
The men came scrambling down the black rock like dark, swift insects, glinting and hard-bodied with blades and scythes. They began to swing and cut before the whale was even dead. It bucking and all of them grim and holding like nets tight about a shoal, her arms growing long and strong around it – so wide and fierce she held it – until she didn’t know if she was a comfort or a menace and didn’t care, only watched its eye with her eye, not blinking. Eventually it stilled, its breath melting out as they hacked and sawed. She smelt the blubber burning in the lamps before it stopped moving, long before the bright roll of its eye beneath her eye wore down to dullness.
She sank down into the rocks until she stood at the bottom of the sea. The night above was dark and moonless, stars scarring the surface. She drowned and came up from sleep gasping, smoke in her nostrils and at the back of her throat. The taste of burning fat caught under her tongue, and would not be washed away.
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Vicki & The LoveMyRead Team x