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A Mercy [Mass Market Paperback]

Toni Morrison
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

4 Jun 2009


On the day that Jacob agrees to accept a slave in lieu of payment of a debt from a plantation owner, little Florens' life changes. With her intelligence and passion for wearing the cast-off shoes of her mistress Florens has never blended into the background and now at the age of eight she is taken from her family to begin a new life. She ends up part of Jacob's household, along with his wife Rebekka, Lina their Native American servant and the enigmatic Sorrow, who was rescued from a shipwreck.

Together these women face the trials of their harsh environment as Jacob attempts to carve out a place for himself in the brutal landscape of the north of America in the seventeenth century.

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (4 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099502542
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099502548
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 128,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of many novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved (made into a major film), Paradise and Love. She has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize for her fiction.

Product Description


"Morrison is at the very height of her powers" (Daily Mail)

"Powerful, elemental... The issues Morrison explores go to the root of what humanity is. They could not be more important" (Guardian)

"Ms. Morrison's versatility and technical and emotional range appear to know no bounds" (Margaret Atwood)

"A beautiful and important book" (The Times)

"Left me trembling at the sheer brilliance of its storytelling and the unassailable dignity of its purpose" (Evening Standard)


`Unsettling, exquisitely written, and deeply moving, it's an amazing piece of work' --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
(4.5 stars) Continuing themes that she has been developing since the start of her career, Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison creates an intense and involving philosophical, Biblical, and feminist novel set in the Atlantic colonies between 1682 and 1690. Her impressionistic story traces slavery from its early roots, using unique voices--African, Native American, and white--while moving back and forth in time. The primary speaker is Florens, a 16-year-old African slave, who tells the reader at the outset that this is a confession, "full of curiosities," and that she has committed a bloody, once-in-a-lifetime crime. In a flashback to 1682, we learn that when Florens was only eight years old, her mother suggested to the Maryland planter who owned the family, that Florens be given to New York farmer Jacob Vaark to settle a debt. Florens never understands why she was abandoned by her mother.

Florens lives and works for the next eight years on Vaark's rural New York farm. Lina, a Native American, who works with her, tells in a parallel narrative how she became one of a handful of survivors of a plague that killed her tribe. Vaark's wife Rebekkah describes leaving England for New York to be married to a man she has never seen. The deaths of their subsequent children are devastating, and Vaark is hoping that eight-year-old Florens will help alleviate Rebekkah's loneliness. Vaark, himself an orphan and poorhouse survivor, describes his journeys from New York to Maryland and Virginia, commenting on the role of religion in the culture of the different colonies, along with their attitudes toward slavery.

All these characters are bereft of their roots, struggling to survive in an alien environment filled with danger and disease.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, but not her best work 8 Aug 2009
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is not my favourite Toni Morrison book although I love her other works. It is beautifully, poetically written, and I was immediately drawn in and absorbed by the predicament of Jacob and the description of his home but I was confused by the constant shift in the narrative viewpoint between the four different women, two of whom appear to be no more than children even when pregnant. I was not always convinced that eleven or fourteen year old servant girls would think in such a sophisticated way.

This is a character-focused book which deals with feelings and fears and Morrison's themes of slavery and sexual exploitation. It is evocative and often touching. However I found myself going over many paragraphs more than once trying to understand which of the protagonists was telling her tale at any given point. Three stars because of this major flaw in the novel, but I would have given it 3.5 if I could because the writing is so assured and accomplished otherwise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a patch on her usual output 11 Nov 2012
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Morrison always writes beautifully, the poetic fluency of her words is always a delight to read, and A Mercy is no different here than any of her other books. Unfortunately there is a lot less to like with regard to the rest of the book in comparison with all her other works. I found this one dense and puzzling. The constantly switching narrators were rather confusing as it took a while to figure out who was who, and as the book was only short there wasn't a lot of time to make these kind of decisions before you ran out of book. I felt like there was only really half a book here, like the story got rushed through with vital parts missing which could really have made this a great book instead of an alright novella. I got to the end thinking 'well, what was the point of that.' I give it three stars for the beauty of the writing, but not for anything else.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Morrison not at her Best 3 Aug 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Reading Tony Morrison's novel, A Mercy, one gets a feeling that in this rather mediocre novel there is a very good one, if not great, trying to get out. In A Mercy, Morrison returns to what is for her is a very familiar subject - namely, no so much slavery in itself but the lives and times of her characters living during the early years after the so called discovery of the USA. Even though some of the issues in this novel were explored in much greater dept in Beloved, this period is brimming with so much painful human experience that it is worth returning to it.

The story, although multi-layered, is a rather straight forward one but made to look complicated by its method of telling and some of the literary devices used to embroider it. We have Europeans sailing across the Atlantic to the new world and we are told of the hardships endured. We then have the experience of settling in the new world and the brutality experienced by settlers, the native Americans and those enslaved. All this is rendered in a way that makes it difficult to follow. So for example, we have a first person narrator who sometimes addresses the reader directly and at other times speaks to a second person. The first person narrator is alternated with a third person narrator. There are episodes that come to a sudden end and then picked up later. Then there are dream-like episodes that draw on the tradition of magic realism. She does away with a conventional linear plot, the omniscient narrator is broadly put to rest and one gets a feeling that Morrison is challenging notions that life is an ordered sequence of events in a coherent world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Toni Morrison great!
One of my favourite authors. I love everything she writes.
Published 1 month ago by mjk
3.0 out of 5 stars Its individual parts add up to less than its whole
I confess that I find Toni Morrison's writing quite difficult, even tedious. When I have heard her talking about her work or, even better, when she is reading excerpts from her... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Dr R
3.0 out of 5 stars Quietly confusing
I found A Mercy a slightly confusing book. I read it as part of a book group and the funny thing about it is we all came out with the same questions and yet we all had different... Read more
Published on 23 Aug 2010 by Florence43
3.0 out of 5 stars A Mercy: A snapshot view into the 17th century psyche
Short review:

A Mercy, first published in 2008, offers a snapshot view into the 17th century psyche, through the lesser-heard voices of the New World women of that time. Read more
Published on 23 Aug 2010 by Maria
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mercy has to be read twice
A Mercy is the harrowing story of three slaves and their owners in the 1690s. This book left a bitter taste, as it shows man's inhumanity to man at its worst. Read more
Published on 21 April 2010 by Mrs. M. Osborne
2.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't get into it
I really couldn't get into this book. I loved 'Beloved', but nothing interested me here - the characters weren't appealing or well-developed enough to make me care about them, and... Read more
Published on 11 Nov 2009 by Rachel
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing
I was looking forward to this book immensely, the subject matters being of interest to me.
However, from almost the first page, I found the writing style very difficult to... Read more
Published on 24 Oct 2009 by Mabel Stark
1.0 out of 5 stars An emperor's new clothes
Does anyone truly understand this book? It seems like the Emperor's new clothes to me. People praising it because other critics have praised it, not because it is truly... Read more
Published on 22 Oct 2009 by TP Hermolle
3.0 out of 5 stars A good idea..not perfectly carried through.
You can read good synopses of the plot from other reviewers, so I won't include on here.

I had to read this book twice before I got anything out of it. Read more
Published on 27 Sep 2009 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Morrison at her best...
Like many people my attitude towards Morrison's work has often been ambivalent - a mix of admiration and apprehension. Read more
Published on 26 Aug 2009 by BlestMiss T
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