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A Mercy Hardcover – 30 Oct 2008

3.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (30 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701180455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701180454
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 128,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A Mercy is a furious novel, a volley of anger, contempt and sorrow'
-- The Herald

'A Mercy is so enthralling that you'll want to read it more than once'
-- The Sunday Times

'for all its restraint...A Mercy is a furious novel, a volley of anger, contempt and sorrow'
-- The Herald

Varied and authoritative and frequently beautiful -- The New Yorker

`...carries great emotional force' -- Independent on Sunday

`Morrison writes passages of undeniable beauty' -- Spectator

`Morrison's prose is confident and secure, her language masterful...This is another penetrating and profoundly disquieting view of America's past'
-- Historical Novels Review

`Unsettling, exquisitely written, and deeply moving, it's an amazing piece of work' -- The Gloss

a challenging, disorientating way of reading and as soon as you finish A Mercy, the novel demands that you start it again.
-- Scotland on Sunday

Review

`Unsettling, exquisitely written, and deeply moving, it's an amazing piece of work'

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
(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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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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Format: Mass Market Paperback
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 answers to them.

The book is written from the perspectives of most of the different characters. This takes a while to get used to as they all have different ways of talking - different dialects. The book also throws you in at the deep end putting it's most difficult to comprehend voice first talking about things you will only understand at the end. So don't give up at the first chapter.

The book is quite female focussed, it looks at the status of women as wives and servants in newly colonised America. It covers a multitude of themes including female identity, slavery, racism and religion. Sometimes it felt like the author could have been more focused on a couple of these rather than try to cover all of them in such a small book.
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By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 11 Nov. 2012
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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Format: Mass Market Paperback
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. The novel explores many interesting motifs through the overarching theme of mercy. Mercy is a notion considered in terms of the utter vulnerability of an individual who finds him or herself at the complete mercy of another, and also, in terms of the surprising acts of kindness human beings are capable of bestowing or withholding at their whim. Not my favourite novel, but one that I'm glad I've read. (3 stars out of 5).

Longer Review:

A Mercy is the ninth novel by Toni Morrison, an American author and winner of the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize. Morrison was born in Ohio in the spring of 1931, and has worked as an editor and a professor; she published her first novel: The Bluest Eyes, in 1970. A Mercy is the first of Morrison's novels which I have encountered. The majority of her work seems to be set in more modern times, whilst A Mercy is is a journey back to 17th century America, exploring themes of slavery, abuse, social-mobility, spirituality, grief and abandonment, and most searing of all, the feminine experience within early America.

The narrative is primly shared by the voices of four very different women. All of these women are at the mercy of New York farmer, Jacob Vaark, as well as the hostile landscape and culture in which they live, and, ultimately, each other. Jacob is a very interesting character; from humble beginnings as an orphan, he later inherits land in America. He appears to hold quite a liberal attitude for a man of his time, showing compassion to animals, as well as a tendency to take into his household orphans and other vulnerable individuals.
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