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The Blue Maiden (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

The Blue Maiden is both a mysterious island in the Nordic Seas which looms large on the horizon of the novel's protagonists, and a parable about the fraught intersection between organized religion (with its patriarchal drive) and nature/paganism (centering the power of birth and regeneration). Anna Noyes beautifully interweaves these elements into a story that starts with a town's accusation of 26 of its women being witches, to which they find them guilty of carousing with Satan on the Blue Maiden and set them aflame. 125 years later, now in a slightly more "enlightened" 19th century, a male descendant of one of the condemned is now pastor to the community with two young girls of his own, and a wife who died shortly after birthing their second. Much has been sublimated in this community and the tale of the witches and the Blue Maiden are things that are not so much talked about as whispered as bedtime warnings between siblings. The attitude toward nature is that it can be overpowered with the pure faith of God. But the pastor's wife had a journal that her girls find one day while sneaking around her room that had been passed down from one of the original "witches" detailing spells, incantations, and knowledge about the plants, trees, and general natural world around them. With this in their possession, the girls pour over it, engaging in an understanding of how one can survive in and with nature. While this knowledge should be essential to the community for farming, cooking, first aid, and general wellness, that is not what the community believes - instead chalking up the good and bad to the benevolence of God and the weakness of humans. Instead the pastor's daughters become framed as pariah's and the pastor himself is brought to question his own belief system.


Noyes' writing style for this novel is beautifully rooted in the point of view of the girls, so much of the adult world gets filtered through overheard snippets, parental commands that rarely make much sense, and bullying of neighboring kids - all further alienating the girls and sending them further from the community.

The Blue Maiden is a fantastic Nordic Folk Horror that seeps with atmosphere and dread. Illustrating the lengths that people will go to in order to hold on to their ideals, whether or not they might actually lead them astray. There aren't any didactic points made, rather Noyes leaves it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions.  

— From Jesse's Picks


From the author of Indie Next Pick and New York Times Editors' Choice Goodnight, Beautiful Women comes a transportive and chilling debut novel of two sisters growing up on an isolated Northern European island in the shadow of their late mother and the Devil

It's 1825, four generations after Berggrund Island's women stood accused of witchcraft under the eye of their priest, now long dead. In his place is Pastor Silas, a widower with two wild young daughters, Beata and Ulrika. The sisters are outcasts: imaginative, oppositional, increasingly obsessed with the lore and legend of the island's dark past and their absent mother, whom their father refuses to speak of.

As the girls come of age, and the strictures of the community shift but never wane, their rebellions twist and sharpen. Ever capable Ulrika shoulders the burden of keeping house, while Bea, alone with unsettling visions and impulses, hungers for companionship and attention. When an enigmatic outsider arrives at their door, his presence threatens their family bond and unearths - piece by piece - a buried history to shocking ends. All the while Berggrund's neighboring island The Blue Maiden beckons, storied home of the Witches' Sabbath and Satan's realm, its misted shore veiling truths the sisters have spent their lives searching for.

A Nordic Gothic laced with the horrors of life in a patriarchy both hostile to and reliant on its women, The Blue Maiden is a starkly beautiful depiction of lost lineage and resilience.

About the Author

Anna Noyes' debut collection, Goodnight, Beautiful Women, was a finalist for the Story Prize and the New England Book Award, as well as a New York Times Editors' Choice, Indie Next Pick, Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, and Amazon Best Book of the Month. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her fiction has appeared in Vice, A Public Space, and Guernica, among others. She has received the Lotos Foundation Prize and the Henfield Prize, as well as residencies from MacDowell, Yaddo, Lighthouse Works, the James Merrill House, and Aspen Words. She lives in New York, on Fishers Island.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780802162809
ISBN-10: 0802162800
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English