The Testaments out now
The Mercy Seat (Hardback)
  • The Mercy Seat (Hardback)
zoom

The Mercy Seat (Hardback)

(author)
3 Reviews Sign in to write a review
£14.99
Hardback 272 Pages / Published: 14/06/2018
  • We can order this

Usually dispatched within 1 week

  • This item has been added to your basket

As the sun begins to set over Louisiana one October day in 1943, a young black man faces the final hours of his life: at midnight, eighteen-year-old Willie Jones will be executed by electric chair for raping a white girl - a crime some believe he did not commit.

In a tale taut with tension, events unfold hour by hour from the perspectives of nine people involved. They include Willie himself, who knows what really happened, and his father, desperately trying to reach the town jail to see his son one last time; the prosecuting lawyer, haunted by being forced to seek the death penalty against his convictions, and his wife, who believes Willie to be innocent; the priest who has become a friend to Willie; and a mother whose only son is fighting in the Pacific, bent on befriending her black neighbours in defiance of her husband.

In this exceptionally powerful novel, Elizabeth Winthrop explores matters of justice, racism and the death penalty in a fresh, subtle and profoundly affecting way. Her kaleidoscopic narrative allows us to inhabit the lives of her characters and see them for what they are - complex individuals, making fateful choices we might not condone, but can understand.

'It takes a brave writer to compose a novel about the execution of an African-American man in the Deep South when the topic has previously been brought to life by authors like Harper Lee and Ernest Gaines. There are multiple possibilities for failure: preachiness, melodrama and bias, to name a few. But Elizabeth H. Winthrop avoids these hazards by writing well, demonstrating once again that while the subject matter is the body of the narrative, the prose itself is the soul and the thing that makes a topic new. . . [The novel] gathers great power as it rolls on propelled by its many voices.' Tim Gautreaux, New York Times

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 9781473672499
Number of pages: 272
Weight: 338 g
Dimensions: 206 x 134 x 25 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
It takes a brave writer to compose a novel about the execution of an African-American man in the Deep South when the topic has previously been brought to life by authors like Harper Lee and Ernest Gaines. There are multiple possibilities for failure: preachiness, melodrama and bias, to name a few. But Elizabeth H. Winthrop avoids these hazards by writing well, demonstrating once again that while the subject matter is the body of the narrative, the prose itself is the soul and the thing that makes a topic new . . . [The novel] gathers great power as it rolls on propelled by its many voices. -- Tim Gautreaux * New York Times *
In this spare, taut novel, the separate stories of the people around an execution join together to form a portrait of a town, a mentality, a moment in time. This is a compelling, sorrowful read, deeply perceptive and wonderfully full of grace. -- Andrew Solomon
This is an atmospheric, subtle and beautifully crafted portrait of a divided community, riven by prejudice. Echoing William Faulkner and Harper Lee, this moving novel has clear contemporary resonance. -- Simon Humphreys * Mail on Sunday *
A heart-rending, devastating read. -- Nina Pottell * Prima *
A choral reckoning with our human cruelty and with the modesty of our very real and resisting grace - and this excellent writer's best novel yet. -- Joshua Ferris
This taut, deft novel asks us to look, and to look hard, and our willingness is profoundly honoured. -- Michelle Latiolais
Please celebrate Winthrop's audacious determination to walk through the narrative minefield of this account of an electrocution in the Deep South during the Gothic worst of Jim Crow times. Winthrop redeems her daring by lovely discipline and dignity, by the care she lavishes on each of her rounded characters. The Mercy Seat is a truly bravura performance. -- Geoffrey Wolff
Some novels seem to set your soul ablaze with an author-induced explosion of empathy for our flawed, beautiful world. The Mercy Seat does just that . . .astonishingly moving . . . Narrated in turn by nine characters, Winthrop's story has the inexorable pace of a thriller; her writing of voice and character is masterful. And like the best fiction about the past, The Mercy Seat speaks to the challenges of the present. It's an astonishing feat. -- Sarah Harrison Smith * The Amazon Book Review *
Winthrop creates a kaleidoscopic narrative that captures the wildly different perspectives of characters beyond accuser and accused. . . Suspenseful and highly nuanced, Winthrop's novel raises profound questions about truth and justice. * The National Book Review *
An absorbing slice of historical fiction. * Good Housekeeping *
Beautifully crafted. -- Jane Ciabattari * BBC Culture *
Gripping . . .This is a small book, but one certain to make a big impact. Questions are raised and left unanswered in regard to the death penalty; no matter what your belief in this regard, it's impossible not to have empathy for Willie, as the author painstakingly walks us through his final hours, the clock ticking as 'The Mercy Seat' waits. * Missourian *
Praise for THE WHY OF THINGS: With insight, respect and luminous clarity . . . This haunting, shimmering novel reminds us how all of us know our families: with unimaginable intimacy, and hardly at all. -- Andrew Solomon
Keenly observed . . . richly drawn. * New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice *
Totally engrossing from start to finish. Winthrop's scene building is captivating, her characterization intricately layered, and her ability to build tension both preternatural and Hitchcockian. * Ploughshares *
Praise for DECEMBER: Winthrop is brilliant at depicting the bewildering world and its assault on the senses of a struggling adolescent . . . This extraordinary novel seduces as it also challenges: curiously provoking and offering small flashes of illumination, like matches struck in that dim and meaningful space on the far side of language. -- Natalie Sandison * The Times *
Praise for FIREWORKS: Winthrop sketches her hapless hero with uncommon charm . . . both he and the reader learn to appreciate anew the 'non-stories' that make up life. * Observer *
A bitingly intelligent writer who infuses otherwise unremarkable moments with bittersweet pathos. * New York Times Book Review *
A multi-layered tale of life, death and the grey pain of grief. And yet, it is not depressing . . . though slow burning, [it] still manages to be explosive. * Irish Examiner *

You may also be interested in...

Before the Coffee Gets Cold
Added to basket
£8.99   £6.99
Paperback
Nine Perfect Strangers
Added to basket
£8.99   £6.99
Paperback
The Giver of Stars
Added to basket
£20.00   £10.00
Hardback
A Keeper
Added to basket
£7.99   £5.99
Paperback
Once Upon a River
Added to basket
£8.99   £6.99
Paperback
The Second Sleep
Added to basket
£20.00
Hardback
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Added to basket
A Spark of Light
Added to basket
£7.99   £5.99
Paperback
The Wall
Added to basket
£8.99   £6.99
Paperback
An American Marriage
Added to basket
£8.99   £6.99
Paperback
The Second Sleep
Added to basket
£20.00   £15.99
Hardback
Transcription
Added to basket
£8.99   £6.99
Paperback
The Man Who Didn't Call
Added to basket
£7.99   £5.99
Paperback
The Last
Added to basket
£8.99   £6.99
Paperback
Agent Running in the Field
Added to basket
£20.00   £16.99
Hardback
Middle England
Added to basket
£8.99   £6.99
Paperback
Terence, Bookseller Newry

“This Year's Underground Railroad.”

From the first paragraph I was gripped by this psychologically tense and taut novel told over the last hours of a hot and humid October day in 1943. The story is told by nine disparate voices, all connected to the... More

“It stole my heart!”

Firstly, thank you to the publishers for this review copy, I was warned it was an excellent read, so I saved it for my holidays when I knew I would have time to savour each word.
This was the eighth of my 2018... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 0

“Gripping and tragic!”

This is such a fantastic and haunting book! The pacing is amazing because of how short the chapters are, making reading it feel effortless. I loved the characters and deeply sympathised with Frank (definitely my... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 0

Please sign in to write a review

Your review has been submitted successfully.