*Starred Review* Highly regarded historical novelist Unsworth’s new novel is the long-awaited sequel to his Booker Prize–winning Sacred Hunger (1992). In that novel, we saw the sailors of a slave ship bound for the New World mutiny when some of the crew tossed live humans overboard, and the mutineers took refuge in Florida, where they lived for many years until they were tracked down by the ship owner’s son and were brought to England for trial. The year now is 1767, and Unsworth, true to form, shows appreciation for the mind-sets and physical features of life in the past but, at the same time, supports his interest in commonly held societal ideas of the time as well as new ones surfacing in the law. Thematically, his new novel is about the downtrodden versus those in positions of overlordship; specifically, he draws our interest to a London courtroom as the mutineers from the previous novel are brought to trial, and, with ingenuity, he connects that situation to coal-mine activity in the north of England as emerging ideas of property and personal rights are played out in that dark, brutal world. The way this talented author elaborates the plot will ensure that readers will be eager to follow its challenging course. --Brad Hooper
“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 together with authority and grace. As with all of his historical novels, he conveys the sights, sounds and smells of life in another century without the slightest hint of pedantry."
—The Wall Street Journal
"Instantly compelling and impeccably written. . . . Line by line, Unsworth is a vigorous and precise writer."
—Los Angeles Times
"Reading Barry Unsworth, one immediately feel secure in the hands of an experienced pro, a master scribe who knows his way through a story like a seasoned navigator sailing treacherous but familiar seas. . . . [His] latest labor of love is 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."
—San Antonio Express-News
"Thought- provoking and resonant."
—The Denver Post
"Wryly, and with Austenesque delicacy, Unsworth presents the intricacies of love, competition, and other timeless human emotions, as well as 18th-century law. Having invented his own brand of historical fiction, characterized by research, imagination, and a literate narrator equally adept at penetrating a society’s values or an individual’s heart, Unsworth creates a novel that works both as period piece and indictment of industrial capitalism. . . . It succeeds in presenting a compelling picture of a transitional moment in English history, not to mention in the development of the English character."
—Publishers Weekly"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."
"Unsworth’s is a vigorous, clear-eyed approach to history, electrified by his complete feel for the period, his neat bathetic wit and his natural gift for storytelling."
"Unsworth's writing is as rich and authoritative as ever, his eye for the period detail as judicious."
"Immediately involving and immensely readable."