Publication Date: 19/01/2023 ISBN: 9781526647887 Category:

For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain

Victoria MacKenzie

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication Date: 19/01/2023 ISBN: 9781526647887 Category:




An astounding debut, both epic and intimate, about grief, trauma, revelation, and the hidden lives of women – by a major new talent

‘Miraculously conjured … Brilliantly done’ THE TIMES, Book of the Month
‘A beautiful book … It warmed my heart’ MAX PORTER
‘Electrifying … A pocket epic’ GUARDIAN
‘The best first novel I’ve read in years … So full and so vivid; it is amazing’ RODDY DOYLE
‘A vibrant portrait of female courage’ OBSERVER

Shortlisted for Scotland’s National Book Awards 2023

In the year of 1413, two women meet for the first time in the city of Norwich.

Margery has left her fourteen children and husband behind to make her journey. Her visions of Christ – which have long alienated her from her family and neighbours, and incurred her husband’s abuse – have placed her in danger with the men of the Church, who have begun to hound her as a heretic.

Julian, an anchoress, has not left Norwich, nor the cell to which she has been confined, for twenty- three years. She has told no one of her own visions – and knows that time is running out for her to do so.

The two women have stories to tell one another. Stories about girlhood, motherhood, sickness, loss, doubt and belief; revelations more powerful than the world is ready to hear. Their meeting will change everything.

Sensual, vivid and humane, For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain cracks history open to reveal the lives of two extraordinary women.


‘Magnificent, bold and compelling’ ROSIE ANDREWS, author of the Sunday Times-bestselling The Leviathan

‘A startling read … Magic’ JO BROWNING WROE, author of the Sunday Times-bestselling A Terrible Kindness

‘Intimately observed, lyrically written and meticulously researched. I loved this’ KIRSTY LOGAN, author of Things We Say in the Dark

Publisher Review

Electrifying ... This slim novel is a pocket epic; you will read it in no time but be thinking about it for ages after ... You feel in every sentence the weight of history pressing down on and confining these women -- FRANK COTTRELL-BOYCE * GUARDIAN * It is an extraordinary feat of historical ventriloquism; the women's inner lives, their religiosity, their sense of place in the world is miraculously conjured ... Brilliantly done * THE TIMES, Book of the Month * Transfixing ... A vibrant portrait of female courage * OBSERVER * A beautiful book. I loved it. Margery and Julian are both so alive. The invisible balancing and weighing MacKenzie has done across the whole to bring them dialogue with each other and to bring the reader into emotional and spiritual connectedness with them is just so brilliant. And it's funny. It warmed my heart -- MAX PORTER, author of Lanny Superlative ... Striking, elegant.. a novel like this requires exquisite balance ... this achieves this admirably * SCOTSMAN * A startling read .... Brings the historical fiction magic of allowing us to inhabit a time, place and perspective so very different from our own -- JO BROWNING WROE, author of A Terrible Kindness Stunningly original ... Her skill is in creating a story that goes much deeper than its slender spine and spare prose might suggest to not only shine a light on the lives and experiences of two 'ordinary' women, but to draw clear contemporary echoes and parallels - around mental health, grief, motherhood and more - that resonate long after reading * MARIE CLAIRE, The best books of 2023 * This is the best first novel I've read in years. It is short, yet so full and so vivid; it is amazing. -- RODDY DOYLE, author of LOVE Moving and unexpected, Mackenzie writes with great clarity and tenderness ... I tore through this -- JULIA ARMFIELD, author of OUR WIVES UNDER THE SEA For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy on My Little Pain is a novel of rare brightness and clarity, concise and yet capacious: it illuminates the meeting of two extraordinary women like a shaft of sunlight -- IMOGEN HERMES GOWAR, author of Women's Prize-shortlisted THE MERMAID AND MRS HANCOCK Magnificent, bold and compelling ... The writing is sometimes raw, at other times very beautiful - and from a place of deep knowledge and love of the historical period -- ROSIE ANDREWS, author of THE LEVIATHAN A novel that fearlessly investigates the medieval mind ... Honest, insightful, erudite and wise -- ANNIE GARTHWAITE, author of CECILY Compelling and beautiful. MacKenzie performs a small miracle in imagining the different lives and personalities of these two medieval women. She writes with great understanding - and the sensibility of a poet - about the power that their religious mysticism gives them -- ALISON LIGHT, author of A RADICAL ROMANCE Intimately observed, lyrically written and meticulously researched. I loved this insight into the lives of medieval women -- KIRSTY LOGAN, author of THINGS WE SAY IN THE DARK The genius and lasting pleasure of this spare, profound novel lies in the vivid and detailed realisation of medieval urban Norfolk life; in the lucent beauty of MacKenzie's writing and in her superb characterisation of the two women * TABLET * More than just a wonderful piece of historical fiction, it's a nuanced exploration of religious conviction, mental illness, misogyny and the legacy of grief * NEW EUROPEAN * An intriguing concept and brilliant debut from Victoria MacKenzie, as she brings strong female characters to the fore * SNACK MAGAZINE * This book is a highly readable, creative imagining of their lives and meeting * PREMIER CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE *

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