The Quality of Mercy

The Quality of Mercy
Barry Unsworth
Reviewed by Jackie Fishleigh
Thu, 01/09/2011

This standalone sequel to the Man Booker prize-winning Sacred Hunger opens in the spring of 1767.

Erasmus Kemp, the wealthy son of a disgraced Liverpool slave-ship owner, and Sullivan, a hapless Irish fiddler who has escaped trial for mutiny and piracy, are setting out on separate missions. Their paths are destined to cross in a Northern mining village.

The movement for abolition is growing but there are vested interests and legal conundrums to confront and Unsworth brings vividly to life the moral dilemma of slavery.

Unsworth has an exceptional talent for plotting which keeps the action rolling along beautifully, and The Quality of Mercy provides a detailed and nuanced picture of 18th-century England. A gripping read.

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