In medieval England, a runaway scholar-priest named Nicholas Barber has joined a traveling theater troupe as they make their way toward their liege lord’s castle. In need of money, they decide to perform at a village en route. When their traditional morality plays fail to garner them an audience, they begin to stage the “the play of Thomas Wells”—their own depiction of the real-life drama unfolding within the village around the murder of a young boy. The villagers believe they have already identified the killer, and the troupe believes their play will be a straightforward depiction of justice served. But soon the players soon learn that the details of the crime are elusive, and the lines between performance and reality become blurred as they discover, scene by scene, line by line, what really happened. Thought-provoking and unforgettable, Morality Play is at once a masterful work of historical fiction, a gripping murder mystery, and a literary work of the first order.
About the Author
Barry Unsworth was born in 1930 and grew up in a mining town in northeast England. Descended from a long line of coal miners, he was the first Unsworth to escape the mines. He attended Manchester University and published his first novel, The Partnership, in 1966. He is the author of seventeen books, including The Ruby in Her Navel, longlisted for the Booker Prize; Pascali’s Island and Morality Play, both shortlisted for the Booker; and Sacred Hunger, co-winner of the Booker Prize. He died in 2012 at the age of eighty-one.
“A bravura performance . . . A thought-provoking comedy on the eternal sameness of disaster and the recurrent uses we put it to in art.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Brilliantly imagined. . . . A dramatic meditation on the relationship between life and play.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A historical novelist of rare talent. . . . A spare and disquieting tale.” —The Boston Globe
“A book of subtlety, compassion, and skill. . . . Confirms Barry Unsworth’s position as a master craftsman of contemporary British fiction.” —Los Angeles Times
“A learned, witty, satisfying entertainment.” —The New York Times
“Works brilliantly. . . . A dark and suspenseful murder mystery; and a provocative meditation on the birth of a new art form.” —Chicago Tribune
“An absorbing mix of historical fiction and whodunit, the novel abounds in vivid, seamlessly integrated details of fourteenth-century life.” —The Wall Street Journal
“An entertaining, thought-provoking work of remarkable scope and detail.” —Houston Chronicle “A gem. . . . Morality Play resonates with meaning for our own time.” —Newsday