The Quality Of Mercy: A Novel

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The Quality Of Mercy: A Novel

by Barry Unsworth

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | January 10, 2012 | Hardcover |

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Barry Unsworth returns to the terrain of his Booker Prize-winning novel Sacred Hunger, this time following Sullivan, the Irish fiddler, and Erasmus Kemp, son of a Liverpool slave ship owner who hanged himself. It is the spring of 1767, and to avenge his father''s death, Erasmus Kemp has had the rebellious sailors of his father''s ship, including Sullivan, brought back to London to stand trial on charges of mutiny and piracy. But as the novel opens, a blithe Sullivan has escaped and is making his way on foot to the north of England, stealing as he goes and sleeping where he can.

His destination is Thorpe in the East Durham coalfields, where his dead shipmate, Billy Blair, lived: he has pledged to tell the family how Billy met his end.

In this village, Billy''s sister, Nan, and her miner husband, James Bordon, live with their three sons, all destined to follow their father down the pit. The youngest, only seven, is enjoying his last summer aboveground.

Meanwhile, in London, a passionate anti-slavery campaigner, Frederick Ashton, gets involved in a second case relating to the lost ship. Erasmus Kemp wants compensation for the cargo of sick slaves who were thrown overboard to drown, and Ashton is representing the insurers who dispute his claim. Despite their polarized views on slavery, Ashton''s beautiful sister, Jane, encounters Erasmus Kemp and finds herself powerfully attracted to him.

Lord Spenton, who owns coal mines in East-Durham, has extravagant habits and is pressed for money. When he applies to the Kemp merchant bank for a loan, Erasmus sees a business opportunity of the kind he has long been hoping for, a way of gaining entry into Britain''s rapidly developing and highly profitable coal and steel industries.
Thus he too makes his way north, to the very same village that Sullivan is heading for . . .

With historical sweep and deep pathos, Unsworth explores the struggles of the powerless and the captive against the rich and the powerful, and what weight mercy may throw on the scales of justice.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 Pages, 6.3 × 9.45 × 1.18 in

Published: January 10, 2012

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385534779

ISBN - 13: 9780385534772

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– More About This Product –

The Quality Of Mercy: A Novel

The Quality Of Mercy: A Novel

by Barry Unsworth

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 Pages, 6.3 × 9.45 × 1.18 in

Published: January 10, 2012

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385534779

ISBN - 13: 9780385534772

About the Book

In this stirring sequel to the Booker Prize-winning "Sacred Hunger," a dramatic clash between haves and have-nots plays out against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century England.
It is the spring of 1767 and Erasmus Kemp has brought back fugitive settlers from America, among them Sullivan, an Irish fiddler. As Sullivan sits in jail, charged with playing a role in the loss of Kemp's father's ship, he makes a solemn vow to gain his freedom and personally deliver the news of a shipmate's passing to his family.
Eventually Sullivan's prayers are heard and he manages to escape from jail. But little does he know he is on a direct course to encounter his nemesis once more, as the two men become embroiled in an epic struggle that pits Kemp's insatiable desire for wealth against Sullivan's passionate advocacy for the poor and the powerless. "The Quality of Mercy" is rich and rewarding historical fiction of the highest order from the master, Barry Unsworth.

Read from the Book

1 On finding himself thus accidentally free, Sullivan’s only thought was to get as far as he could from Newgate Prison while it was still dark. Fiddle and bow slung over his shoulder, he set off northward, keeping the river at his back. In Holborn he lost an hour, wandering in a maze of courts. Then an old washerwoman, waiting outside a door in the first light of day, set him right for Gray’s Inn Lane and the northern outskirts of the city. Once sure of his way, he felt his spirits rise and he stepped out eagerly enough. Not that he had much, on the face of things, to be blithe about. These last days of March were bitterly cold and he had no coat, only the thin shirt and sleeveless waistcoat and cotton trousers issued to him on the ship returning from Florida. His shoes had been made for a man with feet of a different caliber; on him they contrived to be too loose at the heel and too tight across the toes. The weeks of prison food had weakened him. He was a fugitive, he was penniless, he was assailed by periodic shudders in this rawness of the early morning. All the same, Sullivan counted his blessings as he walked along. He had his health still; there was nothing amiss with him that a bite to eat wouldn’t put right. He would find shelter in Durham if he could get there. And there was a grace on him, he had been singled out. It was not given to many just to stroll out of prison like that. Strolling through the gates . . . His teeth ch
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From the Publisher

Barry Unsworth returns to the terrain of his Booker Prize-winning novel Sacred Hunger, this time following Sullivan, the Irish fiddler, and Erasmus Kemp, son of a Liverpool slave ship owner who hanged himself. It is the spring of 1767, and to avenge his father''s death, Erasmus Kemp has had the rebellious sailors of his father''s ship, including Sullivan, brought back to London to stand trial on charges of mutiny and piracy. But as the novel opens, a blithe Sullivan has escaped and is making his way on foot to the north of England, stealing as he goes and sleeping where he can.

His destination is Thorpe in the East Durham coalfields, where his dead shipmate, Billy Blair, lived: he has pledged to tell the family how Billy met his end.

In this village, Billy''s sister, Nan, and her miner husband, James Bordon, live with their three sons, all destined to follow their father down the pit. The youngest, only seven, is enjoying his last summer aboveground.

Meanwhile, in London, a passionate anti-slavery campaigner, Frederick Ashton, gets involved in a second case relating to the lost ship. Erasmus Kemp wants compensation for the cargo of sick slaves who were thrown overboard to drown, and Ashton is representing the insurers who dispute his claim. Despite their polarized views on slavery, Ashton''s beautiful sister, Jane, encounters Erasmus Kemp and finds herself powerfully attracted to him.

Lord Spenton, who owns coal mines in East-Durham, has extravagant habits and is pressed for money. When he applies to the Kemp merchant bank for a loan, Erasmus sees a business opportunity of the kind he has long been hoping for, a way of gaining entry into Britain''s rapidly developing and highly profitable coal and steel industries.
Thus he too makes his way north, to the very same village that Sullivan is heading for . . .

With historical sweep and deep pathos, Unsworth explores the struggles of the powerless and the captive against the rich and the powerful, and what weight mercy may throw on the scales of justice.

About the Author

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.

Editorial Reviews

“Unsworth is one of the best historical novelists on either side of the Atlantic, and in both Sacred Hunger and The Quality of Mercy his 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 "Told with bite and freshness. Unsworth, one of the most ingenious and varied of today’s British writers, makes his scenes not just vivid but microscopically vivid - we see not only their visible life but the invisible life that pulsates beneath. But what may be more remarkable is the creative subversion he works in his characters. . . . Unsworth gives his figures glittering definition, and then leaves them open and undefined." —Richard Eder, The Boston Globe “Unsworth is one of the greatest living historical novelists, and this is what he does best: He entices us back into a past gloriously appointed with archival detail and moral complexity. . . . [ The Quality of Mercy ] is another engaging demonstration of the talent that’s made Unsworth one of the very few writers to appear on the Booker shortlist three times. His sentences recall the sharp detail, moral sensitivity and ready wit of Charles Dickens. But his sense of the lumbering, uneven gait of social progress is more sophisticated, more tempered, one might say, by history.” — The Washington Post "Deeply moving. . . . Unsworth brings his characters togethe
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