Reading Wednesday

Book Review Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth

Often over used, the word epic is the right choice for this novel which I listened to on Audible. I’ve been working my way through several Man Booker Prize winners from the past, and Sacred Hunger won this coveted prize way back in 1992. It’s a brilliant novel that still holds up nearly 30 years later. Here is my book review Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth.

Unsworth is a real talent for historical novels. The character development of this literary masterpiece is the glue to this saga.

Britain’s Sacred Hunger

Sacred Hunger, the term, is used to describe the greed and power and control used by Britain in the 1700’s to capture and transport Africans to use as slaves throughout the colonies. The book follows the folly of the “slaver” ship The Liverpool Merchant, owned by William Kemp. Kemp’s failing fortunes are devastated when the Liverpool Merchant disappears at sea, presumably lost killing crew and slaves alike. Kemp’s son and heir Erasmus, finds his dead father after his suicide due to the financial failing. Erasmus with no prospects must start from scratch to survive.

Twelve years later Erasmus will hear of a colony in Florida, living peaceably together white and black, the possible survivors of the Liverpool Merchant. Erasmus will set out for revenge against those who he believes he still owns.


Told in a parallel story (and on audible in brilliant voices by the talented David Rintoul) the survivors of the Liverpool Merchant are many; Irish, British, African and more. Babies have been born, some have died, but together a society has been formed with no particular leader, although the doctor is one of several who stepped up to show leadership when a mutiny killed the captain.

So Much More

I’ll stop here for fear of giving too much away, but I loved this book…a perfect mix of fact and fiction and the life of slave traders, sailors and slaves alike. Engaging, deeply flawed, captivating and believable characters

Thank you for reading my book review Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth. *****Five stars for Sacred Hunger.

See last week’s book review Book Lovers by Emily Henry

See our Reading Round Up 2023 – our favorite books we read this year.

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