"The historical novel should do three things: make tangible the period in question; reflect it into the modern world; and, like all novels, entertain. Barry Unsworth is a master of all three concerns." TLS
Long on my wishlist, a Barry Unsworth novel is at last on my desk with the arrival of his new book The Quality of Mercy. This begins in the immediate aftermath of the events of his Booker prize-winning Sacred Hunger, and opens in the spring of 1767 where it follows two of the main characters from the earlier book, Sullivan, an Irish fiddler, and Erasmus Kemp, the son of a disgraced Liverpool slave-ship owner.
Sullivan has absconded, escaping trial for mutiny and piracy while on Kemp's ship, and is on his way to the village of Thorpe in the East Durham coalfields, there to visit the family of Billy Blair, a dead former shipmate, and tell them how he met his end. Kemp, meanwhile, wants to spend some of his sugar and slavery fortune investing in coal-mining and steel; tipped off about an investment opportunity in East Durham, he, too, makes his way to Thorpe...
I've heard such praise for Barry Unsworth's work that I'm greatly looking forward to becoming acquainted with it at last. Have you read him?