Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth
Sacred Hunger is a historical novel by Barry Unsworth first published in 1992. It was joint winner of the Booker Prize that year, sharing the position with Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. The story is set in the mid 18th century and centers around the Liverpool Merchant, a slave ship employed in the triangular trade, a central trade route in the Atlantic slave trade. The two main characters are cousins Erasmus Kemp, son of a wealthy merchant from Lancashire, and Matthew Paris, a physician and scientist who goes on the voyage. The novel's central theme is greed, with the subject of slavery being a primary medium for exploring the issue. The story line has a very extensive cast of characters, some featuring in only one scene, others continually developed throughout the story, but most described in intricate detail. The narrative interweaves elements of appalling cruelty and horror with extended comedic interludes, and employs frequent period expressions.