Customer Review

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, immediate and disturbing - a wonderful novel, 25 Oct. 2001
This review is from: Sacred Hunger (Paperback)
This epic of the eighteenth century British Slave Trade works at two levels. The first is as a straight and exciting narrative of the different stances to it of the two main characters, one who profits from it, and is at last morally enslaved by it himself while the other recognises its evil and attempts his own ultimately futile protest against it. At the second level the novel serves as a meditation on the nature of greed - the "Sacred Hunger" of the title, and the extent to which it can become a justification for any excess. Mr.Unsworth's genius in this book is however that the does not adapt a simplistic moralising tone but writes with understanding of the society that produced this abuse, and shows how potentially decent people could be drawn, unthinkingly, into the position of profiteers and exploiters. One does not get a sense here of modern perceptions and values being projected back on to an earlier age - the weakness which destroys so much serious fiction set in the past - and the characters' behaviour and attitudes, whether sympathetic to the Slave Trade or not , are consistent with those of eighteenth century British society. Like other novels of Unsworth's, this work has many echoes of Conrad, in its depiction of the depths to which humanity can so quickly plunge once the restraints of law and custom are relaxed. Though gripping from the first page it is disturbing work and the vividness of its plot and imagery will not quickly leave the reader. Very highly recommended.
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