Liverpool, 1752. William Kemp has lost a fortune in cotton speculation, and must recoup his losses if his son is to marry the wealthy woman whom he loves. His last resort is a slave ship, one that will take him to the Guinea coast, where he will trade for human cargo, then embark on the infamous Middle Passage. When disease ravages the ship and the African prisoners mutiny, William’s profit-seeking venture falls apart. Slaves and sailors alike will join together to found a utopian community on the coast of Florida—not knowing that the vengeful, younger Kemp is in pursuit. Unsworth’s tour de force is a profound meditation on the sacred hunger—the greed—couched within human nature, animating the slave trade. It is a novel that transcends its setting, illuminating larger truths that resonate to this day.
About the Author
Barry Unsworth was born in 1930 and grew up in a mining town in northeast England. Descended from a long line of coal miners, he was the first Unsworth to escape the mines. He attended Manchester University and published his first novel, The Partnership, in 1966. He is the author of seventeen books, including The Ruby in Her Navel, longlisted for the Booker Prize; Pascali’s Island and Morality Play, both shortlisted for the Booker; and Sacred Hunger, co-winner of the Booker Prize. He died in 2012 at the age of eighty-one.
“A remarkable novel in every way. . . . Beautifully written. . . . Brilliant.” —The New York Times
“Brilliantly suspenseful. . . . A masterly meditation on how avarice dehumanizes the oppressor as well as the oppressed.” —Chicago Tribune
“Completely absorbing in its irony, its striking imagery, its fully realized characters and its sure and complex moral touch.” —The Boston Globe
“Utterly magnificent.” —The Washington Post
“Wonderful and heartbreaking. . . . A book of grace and meditative elegance, and of great moral seriousness.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Utterly accessible and hauntingly executed. . . . A profound sense of time and place that’s worthy of Dickens. . . . A completely satisfying literary experience and a great story, wonderfully well told.” —David Halberstam, author of The Coldest Winter
“Sacred Hunger triumphs on two levels: as a rippingly good historical drama and as a serious moral tale. All the surface pleasures of the former—stirring adventure passionate characters, epic length, a carefully detailed look at a long, lost world—combine brilliantly with the richness of the latter. No wonder the Book Prize committee chose to honor it.” —The Seattle Times
“Like Conrad, Unsworth is a novelist whose work is dense with plotting and pacing, and rich in both writing and sheer storytelling.” —Newsday
“[Unsworth] has given us a real, sweating, breathing, bleeding, complex world, a world in which blacks sell other blacks into slavery and whites flog and cheat each other to turn a profit, and a few heroic men and women of both races struggle toward justice against the prevailing social values and their own fears and doubts.” —Los Angeles Times
“Superb. . . . Magnificent. . . . at once an adventure novel, a novel of idea, and a novel of richly realized character.” —Buffalo News
“[Sacred Hunger] has an obvious brilliance which will cast its own light. . . . A magnificent novel.” —The Sunday Telegraph (London)