Mij Woodward's Reviews > The Quality of Mercy

The Quality of Mercy by Barry Unsworth
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Mar 05, 12

bookshelves: walter-scott-prize-hist-fict, favorites, hist-fiction
Read from January 31 to March 04, 2012

One of my favorite books ever.

The reason for that is because it was such a high to have my eyes opened, not only about the slave trade, the landed gentry, coal mining and more in England during the 1760's, but also about how it is that people do the things they do sometimes.

Toward the end, I COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN!!!! I forced my husband to wait for any conversation at our morning coffee yesterday until I had finally reached the last page, and then I forced him to listen to me go on and on about the book, why I loved it so, and how I could hardly wait for him to read it so I could tell him more (not wanting to spoil his discovery of the plot, etc.)

The two things I loved the most about this book: (1) I loved the way the various streams of stories all came together at the end, how the various characters all interacted with each other toward the end; and (2) I loved learning about how things were "back then" in England, all brought to life for me, transporting me back there.

One of my ancestors worked in coal mines in Scotland, as a child and young man, in the latter part of the 1800's, a century after the time period set for the mining town of Durham in The Quality of Mercy. By the 1800's, things probably had improved for coal miners and their families, but likely much of the horrors of this labor remained the same. Details were given me by Barry Unsworth that no history book could relay. I needed to identify with the characters he gave me in Durham, who worked in the mines, including the children, to get a picture of the whole thing. And that beautiful stretch of land called the Dene the workers walked through on the way to and from work. I pictured it all.

With all this praise for the book, I will admit that it actually took me until half way through to become engrossed. What kept me glued was the history I was learning. And then, during the second half of the book, I became more glued because I then cared about what was going to happen to each of these characters.

It's been about 24 hours since I finished reading The Quality of Mercy, and I am still on cloud nine.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Adriana The book description says this is a sequel to Sacred Hunger. Since it doesn't look like you've read that one, I'll assume it isn't necessary to enjoy this book.


message 2: by Mij (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mij Woodward Adriana wrote: "The book description says this is a sequel to Sacred Hunger. Since it doesn't look like you've read that one, I'll assume it isn't necessary to enjoy this book."

Hi Adriana--That is correct--The Quality of Mercy stands alone by itself. But I made sure to add Sacred Hunger to my "to read" books, and I might read others by Barry Unsworth; I was so impressed with his writing skills.


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