The Quality of Mercy, By Barry Unsworth


Set in 1767, as England's slave-traders steer their tainted wealth into new industry, Barry Unsworth's final novel both follows up his Booker-winning Sacred Hunger – and begins to chart a new course.

Behind the triple plot engine lies a core 18th-century ideal: sympathy, and the imagination it needs.

From legal fights against slavery to the pits of the North-east, the book sets the suffering of the poor against the solidarity that enables both endurance and reform.

Unsworth remained a master-craftsman not just of time and place, but ideas.