The story revolves around a slaver called the Liverpool Merchant setting out for Africa and from there to the sugar islands. Mathew Paris, a doctor recently released from prison in Norwich, is (at least for the first part of the novel) the main character. The story throws a great shadow, touching on men’s clubs and sugar plantations to a haven set up by escaped slaves and sailors on the Florida coast. It is that Utopia that stays with me most vividly.
Unsworth is a master storyteller; he juggles dozens of characters and a complex plot effortlessly; he has a deft touch with historical detail and beyond those blessings, he really can write a beautiful sentence.