The Quality of Mercy
By Barry Unsworth
(Anchor, Paperback, 9780307948045, 336pp.)
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
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It is the spring of 1767, and the vengeful Erasmus Kemp has had the mutinous sailors of his father’s ship brought back to London to stand trial on piracy charges. Much to Kemp’s dismay, the Irish fiddler Sullivan has escaped, and retrieving him proves too much in the midst of overseeing the dramatic legal case and a new business venture in the northern coal and steel industries of Thorpe. But the two men’s paths are about to collide once again, for Sullivan is also on his way to Thorpe to fulfill the dying wish of his shipmate.
With historical sweep and deep pathos, Unsworth explores the struggles of the downtrodden against the rich and the powerful.
BARRY UNSWORTH, who won the Booker Prize for Sacred Hunger, was a Booker finalist for Pascali's Island and Morality Play and was long-listed for the Booker Prize for The Ruby in Her Navel. His other works include The Songs of the Kings, After Hannibal, Losing Nelson, and Land of Marvels.
“Superb. . . . Unsworth is one of the best historical novelists on either side of the Atlantic.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Deeply moving. . . . Unsworth is equally fluent writing about the lives of bankers and coal miners, judges and slaves, and he brings his characters together with authority and grace.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Another engaging demonstration of the talent that’s made Unsworth one of the very few writers to appear on the Booker shortlist three times.” —The Washington Post
“Reading Barry Unsworth, one immediately feels secure in the hands of an experienced pro, a master scribe that knows his way through a story like a seasoned navigator sailing treacherous but familiar seas.” —San Antonio Express-News
“Unsworth has an Austen-esque flair and an uncanny ability to bring the past to life.” —Geraldine Brooks, author of March
“Transcends its time. . . . Thought-provoking and resonant.” —The Denver Post
“The Quality of Mercy is the work of one who is both artist and craftsman. There is not a page without interest, not a sentence that rings false. It is gripping and moving, a novel about justice which is worthy of that theme. In short, it is a tremendous achievement, as good as anything this great novelist has written.” —The Scotsman
“Instantly compelling and impeccably written. . . . Unsworth is a vigorous and precise writer.” —Los Angeles Times
“This stand-alone novel has all the predecessor’s power to shock. . . . Immediately involving and immensely readable.” —The Daily Mail (London)
“What a treat. . . . A silkily written potboiler, wonderfully well-realized, entirely engrossing.” —Financial Times
“[Unsworth’s] vast knowledge of 18th-century social and material conditions creates a rich and strange rendering of daily life that’s utterly persuasive.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Intriguing. . . . Unsworth’s writing is as rich and authoritative as ever, his eye for the period detail as judicious.” —The Guardian (London)
“Full of gorgeous prose, wonderful dialogue in regional dialect, deeply etched characters, and historical settings both rural and urban one can smell and taste. . . . Endlessly enthralling. . . . An honest tale of greed, justice and mercy, a cinematic period piece that engenders romance and ruthlessness in equal amounts.” —San Antonio Express-News
“Terrifically original. . . . Unsworth gives a strangled cry to suggest that for all things get better, they stay exactly the same.” —The Telegraph (London)
“Rich and powerful. . . . The Quality of Mercy is freighted with deep meaning and sharp observation. . . . A wonderful novel from a writer at the height of his powers, a gripping courtroom drama, a subtle love story, a knockout comedy and a social commentary.” —Historical Novel Society
“A page-turner. . . .Heartfelt. . . . The Quality of Mercy has quality to share.” —The Daily Express (London)
“Historical fiction at its best. . . . The perfect way to kick off a new year of reading.” —BookPage
“Deftly arranged. . . . The fact that [Unsworth’s] characters never turn into ciphers is one of his greatest strengths.” —The Independent (London)