God’s Mercies

God’s Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal, and the Dream of Discovery |Doubleday Canada 2007

godsmerciescover_med_hrIn this tale of survival, ambition, deception, and betrayal at the dawn of the Seventeenth Century, the geopolitical rivals England, Spain, France and the Netherlands, and factions within those countries, plot to secure the most privileged access to the wealth of the Orient and exploit the potential of the New World. In a story whose geographic sprawl reaches from the East Indies to the Caribbean to eastern North America to the high Arctic, the careers of two exceptional figures, Samuel de Champlain and Henry Hudson, ultimately align. Both men are consumed by the idea of pressing through a watery gateway they are convinced will lead them to China. For Hudson, it is the Furious Overfall of the Canadian arctic. For Champlain, it is the Great Rapid on the upper St Lawrence at present-day Montréal. When Henry Hudson and his son John vanish in a mutiny in 1611, the stage is set for a remarkable convergence: in 1613, Champlain resolves to travel deep into the hinterlands, beyond the Great Rapid, and retrieve from the Sorcerer people an English boy that he has been told they are holding prisoner and want to present to him as a gift.

Finalist: 2007 Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize; 2008 Governor-General’s Literary Awards (Non-Fiction)

Reviews

“[Hunter’s] latest book intersects the lives of two iconic 17th-century explorers in a meticulously researched work that’s also a storytelling success…It’s tough to marry historical scholarship and entertainment. Part of the challenge is to provide just the right level of detail for average readers while faithfully hewing to the historical record. But Hunter gets the balance just right as he plows through the historical evidence and pulls pieces of the puzzle together. Adventures in Canadian history don’t come much better than this.” Winnipeg Free Press

“Few literary pleasures are greater than that of being comfortably ensconced in an easy chair in the warmth of the 21st century while reading about the brutish ordeals of seafarers in the 17th century. Douglas Hunter’s book about the intersecting lives of Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain has plenty of such moments.…Hunter writes with the kind of vividness that makes you want to pull the blankets closer as you listen to ‘the creaking of the rigging’s cordage, rimed with salt spray.’…Hunter’s research and writing skills are impeccable…a first-rate adventure story.” Calgary Herald and Montreal Gazette (CanWest News Service)

“Apart from the final Franklin tragedy…no dreadful demise looms larger in the Canadian imagination than that of Henry Hudson. The image of Hudson set adrift in a small boat with seven men and a boy, all victims of a mutiny in a forbidding landscape, haunts anyone awake to the nightmare history of northern exploration. That moment is at the heart of God’s Mercies, an ambitious new work by Douglas Hunter….By setting the tragedy of Hudson against the happier story of Samuel de Champlain, his French contemporary, Hunter has produced a compelling historical narrative.…Hunter proves both a meticulous researcher and an accomplished storyteller.…Hudson emerges as a riveting protagonist: competent, ambitious and obsessed, utterly enthralled by the “fever dream” of discovering the Northwest Passage.…thanks to his skills as a craftsman, Hunter makes the story work…Hunter holds our interest because he avidly engages with his material. He wrestles with every aspect of the story and formulates his own judgments…Bottom line? God’s Mercies is entertaining, enlightening and significant: Bravo!” —Ken McGoogan, author of Fatal Passage and Lady Franklin’s Revenge, in The Globe & Mail

“[Hunter] sails his complex narrative, filled with characters both larger and smaller than life, with a page-turner’s style…There are some great goings on here and many spells of clear-blue writing. The lesson for hopeful explorers is to trust no one, and in the end, readers gain a renewed appreciation for the difficulties of leadership when a long way from home without a map.” —Canadian Geographic

“A well researched and convincingly argued re-evaluation of a familiar story” —Edmonton Journal

“Having made his reputation as a business writer with books on the Molson family’s history and the Nortel meltdown, [Hunter] now joins Canada’s stable of exploration historians with a work that combines scholarly rigour and fresh insight–especially in dealing with Henry Hudson’s final voyage… Meticulously sifting through this material, Hunter has produced a riveting account…” Literary Review of Canada

“[Hunter] has produced, with editorial grace, a wonderfully readable, suspenseful and dramatic work of historical investigation and synthesis. By employing various narrative techniques, and by placing all source notes and bibliographic information at the end of the book, he has crafted an historical narrative which flows along with a storyteller’s artistry.” Chumley & Pepys on Books

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