The Quality of Mercy, By Barry Unsworth
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Saturday 08 September 2012
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.
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