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Barry Unsworth (1930–2012)

Author of Sacred Hunger

22+ Works 6,330 Members 168 Reviews 23 Favorited

About the Author

Barry Unsworth was born in Wingate, England on August 10, 1930. He received an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Manchester in 1951. He started out writing short stories, but soon switched to novels. His first novel, The Partnership, was published in 1966. He wrote 17 novels show more during his lifetime including Stone Virgin, Losing Nelson, The Songs of the Kings, Land of Marvels, and The Quality of Mercy. Sacred Hunger won a Booker Prize in 1992. Morality Play and Pascali's Island were both made into feature films. He died from lung cancer on June 5, 2012 at the age of 81. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Series

Works by Barry Unsworth

Sacred Hunger (1992) 1,560 copies
Morality Play (1995) 1,295 copies
Land of Marvels (2009) 443 copies
The Ruby in Her Navel (2006) 434 copies
The Songs of the Kings (2002) 402 copies
Losing Nelson (1999) 400 copies
After Hannibal (1996) 346 copies
Stone virgin (1985) 305 copies
Pascali's Island (1980) 239 copies
The Quality of Mercy (2011) 226 copies
The Rage of the Vulture (1982) 163 copies
The Hide (1970) 117 copies
Crete (2004) 110 copies
Sugar and Rum (1988) 87 copies
Mooncranker's Gift (1973) 67 copies
The Partnership (1992) 41 copies
Classic Sea Stories (1996) 31 copies
The Big Day (1976) 30 copies
Partnership (1657) 1 copy
Stone virgin 1 copy

Associated Works

Claudius the God (1934) — Introduction, some editions — 4,191 copies
Granta 64: Russia the Wild East (1998) — Contributor — 161 copies
The Reckoning [2002 film] (2004) — Original novel — 15 copies
Pascali's Island [1988 film] — Original novel — 5 copies
Short Stories: The Thoroughly Modern Collection (2008) — Contributor — 5 copies

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BRITISH AUTHOR CHALLENGE JANUARY - HILL AND UNSWORTH in 75 Books Challenge for 2016 (February 2016)

Reviews

To finish my author A-Z of 2017, I powered through this, Barry Unsworth’s ‘Morality Play’ to finish the challenge with hours to spare. Luckily, it was an entertaining book which made finishing it quickly a pleasurable experience.

It tells the tale of a renegade clergyman who having wandered out of his diocese and sleeping with a woman, adjoins himself to a wandering band of actors living hand to mouth during the dark ages. With one of their ensemble recently deceased, they take in the minister and head to a nearby town to try and bury their late companion. And it is within this village that they become embroiled in the tragic deaths of young boys under suspicious circumstances. Carried on a macabre and judicious wave of artistic furore the company decide to take the hitherto step of ditching their biblical enactments to instead perform an impromptu play of the most recent murder when, after gathering evidence from various town sources, they stumble upon a suspicious verdict as to who the town believe commits the crime: the boy’s deaf mother, no less.

Part philosophical treatise on ‘the roles we play’, part mystery, part historical, medieval narrative, this short novel offers substantial intrigue and ideas about medieval life and what it is to portray oneself and others. It’s an engaging, fast-paced novel that transports you to a time of a brutal and primitive England, where the finesse and talents of artists and artisans exist precariously amidst the oppressive royal and religious regimes. 3/5
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Dzaowan | 41 other reviews | Feb 15, 2024 |
I hadn't read much (if any) historical fiction until encountering Barry Unsworth‘s work. Although I wouldn't say it is a genre I'm too enthused about, a sincere doff of the cap is in order to authors like Unsworth who can migrate the seas of time to present a seemingly vibrant and 'real' narrative of the particular era in which they anchor their story. In this case, we are transported to Liverpool in the 1700s and more broadly the world when slavery was rife and prosperous. A struggling businessman and his son decide to risk failing profits in launching their very own freshly constructed slaver in the hope of plundering hefty rewards on the seas. Complete with illicitly acquired crewmen, a wily, nefarious Captain and their distant, heretic cousin on board, the Kemp's fortune takes its maiden voyage across the seas to Africa in pursuit of the 'Sacred Hunger' that being the profit such mean seek to feast on. The book is in part (but by no means primarily) an account of life on a slaver; the fetid conditions, brutal treatment and precarious existence of master and slave are harrowing. Unsworth's prose is stark and hard hitting; he pulls no punches. Parallel to this, we are told the story of the Merchant's son as he endeavours to win the affections of a young daughter of another local businessman. Sadly, his tale is less well crafted and clunky which adds further disappointment due to the fact both strands come together as the book progresses. Unsworth writes well but I feel he misses a certain something to truly engage me and feel for his characters. This is another 3/5 but unlike ‘Morality Play’ I became a little disinterested in parts and so took a long time to finish it. A readable book but falls short of an unforgettable tale.… (more)
 
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Dzaowan | 35 other reviews | Feb 15, 2024 |
Thurston is a young man working as a procurer of entertainments for the King of Sicily under the direction of a Moslem man who he feels much respect for. Sicily has a diverse culture with Moslem, Eastern Christians, and Catholics living together in relative peace. However, due to the failed crusade of the French King relations between the Christians and Moslems have become tense.

Thurstan's boss is aware of the increased feelings against him among those surrounding the King. The plot thickens as Thurstan is sent on a mysterious mission supposedly to uncover plots against the King. He meets a woman recently widowed whom he knew and loved as a young man; they swear their love to each other and Thurstan finds himself seemingly "climbing the ladder" to higher positions. However, he has been cruelly tricked as he is forced later to betray his employer.

The ruby in her navel refers to a group of musicians and belly dances who he finds on his mission. Nesrin is a beautiful belly dancer who he is attracted to in spite of his love for the first women.

I enjoyed almost all of the book; however, as the workings of the plot began to unfold it was hard to sort through (probably because I was just tired of reading). Still liked the writing and particularly the setting. Good author.

A lot of the tension between Moslem and Christianity demonstrates that things haven't changed and the quest for power and access to power remains just as strong as ever.
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½
 
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maryreinert | 11 other reviews | Jan 30, 2024 |
Ouch - it starts out okay but quickly rolls downhill with 21st century slang. I would have appreciated it if the book summary said we would be referencing more modern speech and thoughts here, but I thought we we traveling back to an ancient Greek battleground...
 
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rosenmemily | 14 other reviews | Jan 7, 2024 |

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Works
22
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Members
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Popularity
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Rating
3.9
Reviews
168
ISBNs
210
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14
Favorited
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