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For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain

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

About the Author

Victoria MacKenzie is a fiction writer and poet. She is the winner of the Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award and the inaugural Emerging Writer Award from Moniack Mhor. She was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, as well as being awarded prestigious writing residencies in Scotland, Finland and Australia. She teaches creative writing for the Open College of the Arts. She lives in Scotland. victoriamackenzie.net @forthygreatpain


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

This slim but powerful novel follows both medieval figures through their lives to the point of the fateful meeting
*SUNDAY TIMES, Twelve best historical novels of 2023*

A tiny marvel, tenderly illuminating the inner lives of Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich
*GUARDIAN, Best books of the year*

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

I adored Victoria Mackenzie’s sparse and lyrical debut ... It’s intimate, moving and a wonderful snapshot of two extraordinary women’s lives
*IRISH TIMES, Best books of 2023*

A novel like this requires exquisite balance, not to tip the hand towards one or other of the paired yet opposing characters. This achieves that admirably. It would also be a clever choice for the National Theatre of Scotland to adapt
*SCOTSMAN, Books of the Year 2023*

Lightly done but intensely felt, it’s mind-expanding stuff
*Guardian, Summer reading – 50 brilliant books to discover*

I’ve already finished Victoria Mackenzie’s limpid novella … in which she imagines the meeting between Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, two great, but wildly different, English mystics
*TLS, Summer books 2023*

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

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

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

A novel that fearlessly investigates the medieval mind ... Honest, insightful, erudite and wise

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

Intimately observed, lyrically written and meticulously researched. I loved this insight into the lives of medieval women

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

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

An intriguing concept and brilliant debut from Victoria MacKenzie, as she brings strong female characters to the fore

This book is a highly readable, creative imagining of their lives and meeting

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