Set in 1617 in Vardo, a remote fishing village in northern Norway. A storm takes out the entire male population and the women are left to fish, build, hunt and butcher reindeer for themselves. It is brutal but without the men, the women reshape their community and it works. Until a witch-hunter in the form of a commissioner arrives from Scotland with his young wife Ursa. Maren, whose fiancé , brother and father were all victims of the storm takes it upon herself to help the wide-eyed Ursa who has never so much as baked a loaf of bread or lit a fire. And so Maren teaches her how to keep house for her husband whilst he rampages the village, turning the women against each other in his vicious hunt for witches. Beautifully written, Millwood Hargrave doesn't spare her readers the gory details of miscarriages or burning flesh but she does it with a mastery of language that is as poetic as it is visceral. This book is densely packed with brutal landscapes, repressed relationships, remote communities and patriarchal violence but it is also underpinned with an intimate story of love and hope that is at once heart-lifting and heart-breaking. I cannot recommend it enough.
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