Sacred Hunger is a stunning and engrossing exploration of power, domination, and greed. Filled with the "sacred hunger" to expand its empire and its profits, England entered fully into the slave trade and spread the trade throughout its colonies.
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. Joining together, the sailors and the slaves set up a secret, utopian society in the wilderness of Florida, only to await the vengeance of the single-minded young Kemp.
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Wise, Perceptive, Heart-breaking
I can't remember the last time a novel impressed me so much. Any modern individual looking at the history of the Atlantic slave trade has to marvel that such a horror took place. What, we ask ourselves today, possessed European slavers to abduct, torment, and then finally sell perfect strangers who had done them no wrong? You can read the histories, some dry and some vivid. But if you want to hear how the slavers justified themselves in their own voices, this is the book for you. Thru fiction, Unsworth relates what the impoverished UK underclass saw in slavery, what the profiteers saw, what a man of the Enlightenment might have seen. In telling this tale of the Atlantic slave trade, Unsworth ignores all temptations to cheap and empty moralizing. Humans aren't born with much of a moral sense, Unsworth seems to be saying, but change does happen and in that we can take some comfort.
Fortunately, the author's powers of prose and story-telling are matched by the talents of the narrator, David Rintoul. Not only does he nail the many regional accents of Britain (and Ireland), he nails them even when he has those characters speaking pidgin! And Rintoul is an utter master of tone and inflection to distinguish characters who would otherwise sound too much alike.
- S. Coldsmith "Mayflower Child"
the ending was a bit abrupt but a good story
- L. Miller "Laurie"