It is the late 14th century, a dangerous time beset by war and plague. Nicholas Barber, a young and wayward cleric, stumbles across a group of travelling players and compounds his sins by joining them. Yet the town where they perform reveals another drama: a young woman is to be hanged for the murder of a 12-year-old boy. What better way to increase their takings than to make a new play, to enact the murder of Thomas Wells?
But as the actors rehearse, they discover that the truth about the boy's death has yet to be revealed.
In this Booker Prize-winning work, Barry Unsworth follows the failing fortunes of William Kemp, a merchant pinning his last chance to a slave ship; his son, who needs a fortune because he is in love with an upper-class woman; and his nephew, who sails on the ship as its doctor because he has lost all he has loved. The voyage meets its demise when disease spreads among the slaves and the captain's drastic response provokes a mutiny.
"Wise, Perceptive, Heart-breaking"
Thurstan, a young Norman and would-be Knight at the Court of King Roger in Palermo, has been in love since boyhood with Lady Alicia, now returned a widow from the Holy Land. Thurstan soon finds himself caught in a tangle of plots.
"A Well-Earned Five Stars for this Gem"
A thoroughly modern tale of politics, spin-doctoring, and media manipulation. As the harsh wind holds the Greek fleet trapped in the straits at Aulis, frustration and political impotence turn into a desire for the blood of a young and innocent woman - blood that will appease the gods and allow the troops to set sail. And when Iphigeneia, Agamemnon's beloved daughter, is brought to the coast under false pretences, it looks as if the ships will soon be on their way.
"The politics of power haven't changed."
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.
"Great follow up to Sacred Hunger"
1752, the Liverpool Merchant sets sail from Merseyside. A slaver, she is bound for Africa to buy men and transport them in chains across the Atlantic. But aboard ship disease thrives in the cramped hold, killing men and eating into profit. Captain Thurso insists on throwing the sick overboard, to the horror of Matthew Paris, ship's surgeon, who determines to prevent such barbarity. Meanwhile, back home, Erasmus Kemp, cousin of Paris and son of the Liverpool Merchant's owner, finds his fortune hanging in the balance: dependent on the success or failure of a single voyage....
The Quality of Mercy opens in the spring of 1767, two years after the events of Barry Unsworth's Booker Prize-winning Sacred Hunger. It follows the fortunes of two central characters from that book: Sullivan, the Irish fiddler, and Erasmus Kemp, the son of a Liverpool slave-ship owner who hanged himself. 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.
"Another Great Unsworth Book"