Toni Morrison - A Mercy (4 stars)

Toni Morrison - A Mercy

In 1993, Toni Morrison became the first (still only) African American author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her ninth novel A Mercy, which addresses the cruel genesis of slavery in early colonial America, arrives as an African American strides proudly into the White House.

A young slave girl is taken in by a trader and landowner in Virginia, and joins a disparate clutch of other women on his smallholding – his English mistress, his Native American servant and an orphaned daughter of a sea captain – all attempting to find meaning and stability in a world where religious zeal, savage conditions and male brutality dominate.

Written with scholarly authority as a non-linear blur of self-contained biographies from each character, in sentences rich with lush symbolism and historical resonance, A Mercy reads like a parable on America’s painful and unplanned birth, the scars of which – centuries on – are yet to heal. (Malcolm Jack)

A Mercy is published by Chatto & Windus

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