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The Northern Clemency

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The Northern Clemency

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In 1974, the Sellers family is transplanted from London to Sheffield in northern England. On the day they move in, the Glover household across the street is in upheaval: convinced that his wife is...
In 1974, the Sellers family is transplanted from London to Sheffield in northern England. On the day they move in, the Glover household across the street is in upheaval: convinced that his wife is...
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  • In 1974, the Sellers family is transplanted from London to Sheffield in northern England. On the day they move in, the Glover household across the street is in upheaval: convinced that his wife is having an affair, Malcolm Glover has suddenly disappeared. The reverberations of this rupture will echo through the years to come as the connection between the families deepens. But it will be the particular crises of ten-year-old Tim Glover--set off by two seemingly inconsequential but ultimately indelible acts of cruelty--that will erupt, full-blown, two decades later in a shocking conclusion.

    Expansive and deeply felt, The Northern Clemency shows Philip Hensher to be one of our most masterly chroniclers of modern life, and a storyteller of virtuosic gifts.

    From the Trade Paperback edition.

  • From the book So the garden of number eighty-four is nothing more than a sort of playground for all the kids of the neighbourhood?""I wouldn't say all," Mrs. Arbuthnot said. "I would have said it was only the Glovers' children."

    "All of them?" Mrs. Warner--Karen, now--said. "The girl seems so quiet. It's the elder boy, really."

    "I've seen the girl going in there too," Mrs. Arbuthnot said. "It's during the day with her. She's on her own generally. I grant you, it's the older boy who goes in after dark, and he's got people with him. Girls, one at a time. There'll be trouble with both those boys."

    "But, Mrs. . . ." Mr. Warner said. He was slow to catch people's names.

    "Call me Anthea," Mrs. Arbuthnot said. "Now that we've finally met."

    "I mean, Anthea," Mr. Warner said, "why doesn't anyone tell the parents? They surely can't know."

    "That I don't understand," Mrs. Arbuthnot said. She was stately, forty-six, divorced, at number ninety-three, almost opposite the empty house. "This isn't the best opportunity, I dare say."

    They were at the Glovers'. It was a party; the neighbourhood had been invited. Most had been puzzled by the invitation, knowing the couple and their three children only by sight. Mrs. Arbuthnot and Mrs. Warner had passed the time of day on occasion. They had arrived more or less at the same time; both had the habit, at a party, of moving swiftly to the back wall the better to watch arrivals. They had made common ground, and Mrs. Warner's husband had been introduced. He worked for the local council in a position of some authority.

    It was a Friday night in August. The room was filling up, in a slightly bemused way; the neighbours, nervously boastful, were exchanging compliments about each other's gardens; conver?sations about motor-cars were running their usual course.

    "It's a nice thing for her to do," Mrs. Warner said, who always prided herself on thinking the best of others. She had left her son, nineteen, a worry, at home; she thought the party might have been smarter than it was, not knowing the Glovers. Other people's children had come.

    "She's a nice woman, I believe," Mrs. Arbuthnot said, who had her own private names for almost everyone in the room, the Warners, the Glovers included. "It's a shame she couldn't have waited a week or two, though."

    "Yes?" Mr. Warner said, who believed that if a thing could be done today, it shouldn't be put off until tomorrow.

    "There's new people moving into number eighty-four," Mrs. Arbuthnot said. "It might have been nice to introduce them to everyone. They're moving in next week."

    "Just opposite Anthea's," Mrs. Warner explained to her husband.

    "Perhaps it wasn't ideal," Mr. Warner said. "From the point of view of dates."

    "People are busy in August, these days," Mrs. Arbuthnot said. "They go away, don't they?"

    "We were thinking about the Algarve," Mrs. Warner said.

    "Oh, the Algarve," Mrs. Arbuthnot said, encouraging and patronizing as a magazine.

    It was a good party, like other parties. Mrs. Glover was in a long dress: pale blue and high at the neck, it clung to her; on it were printed the names of capital cities. In vain, Mrs. Warner ran her eyes over it, looking for the name of the Algarve, but it was not there.

    "Nibble?" Mrs. Glover said, frankly holding out a potato wrapped in foil, spiked with miniature assemblages of cheese and pineapple, wee cold sausages iced with fat. Her hair was swept up and pulled in, in a chignon and ringlets. They had all dressed, but she had made the most effort for her own party.

    "I so like your unit," Mrs. Arbuthnot said.

    "We got fed up with the old sideboard,"...
About the Author-
  • Philip Hensher's novels include Kitchen Venom, which won the Somerset Maugham Award, and The Mulberry Empire, which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Chosen by Granta as one of its best young British novelists, he is professor of creative writing at Exeter University and a columnist for The Independent. He lives in London.

  • Wall Street Journal

    "A richly textured, closely observed saga. . . . Hensher's eye for detail is precise and his touch sure. . . . Reminds one of Mrs. Gaskell or even Dickens."

  • Seattle Times "Symphonic. . . . A strong, ambitious work. . . . Hensher creates, with sumptuous thoroughness, a whole world."
  • The New York Times "Dazzling. . . . Haunting. . . . Relentlessly enveloping. . . . A piercingly insightful group portrait."
  • The Washington Post "Absorbing. . . . [Hensher] writes with such illuminating attention to the flutterings of everyday hope and despair that you come away from these pages feeling like a more insightful person."
  • Wall Street Journal "Admirable. . . . A state-of-the-art state-of-the-nation novel."
  • Washington Post "Invites comparison to Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections or Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children, but Hensher is a gentler satirist and treats his characters more tenderly."
  • Richmond Times-Dispatch "Masterful. . . . The real thing: a book that engages with all our daily heartbreak and moments of heady joy as we live fully in the world. . . . A welcome antidote to the often synthetic concerns of too many novels."
  • Sunday Times (London) "Brilliantly styled. . . . Hensher is fascinatingly good on how social transformation manifests itself in the textures, colours and manners of a culture. . . . Not only extremely funny, but also deeply humane."
  • Sunday Telegraph (London) "Remarkable. . . . As emotionally engaged as political satire and as compulsively readable as a saga. . . . At the heart of the elegant narrative architecture, the fine comic timing and exuberant detail, there flickers a sense that generosity, a sense of others, is the best we can do. . . . Dazzling."
  • Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass "A tremendous book. . . . Hensher has composed not so much a condition-of-England as a condition-of-humanity novel, which is gripping and surprising and shocking in all kinds of unpredictable ways, and enormously wide in psychological and moral scope."
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch "Literary magic. . . . An astonishing joy to read."
  • Roger Lewis, Sunday Express (London) "This is the most absorbing and enjoyable novel I've read since the heyday of A. S. Byatt. . . . Such is Hensher's wit and humanity and so rich in detail is his crowded canvas, we soon realize that the novel is indeed a modern epic. . . . You won't want to skip a single sentence. It strides along, packed with cherishable observations."
  • Esquire "Combining [Hensher's] intelligence with humanity and storytelling drive, The Northern Clemency powerfully slices and preserves 20 years of British life and deserves to be remembered for at least that length of time. . . . As clever and as elegant as Hensher's previous books."
  • The Times (London) "An engrossing and hugely impressive novel. . . . Hensher is a brilliant anatomist of familial tension and marshals his large cast of characters deftly. He has an impeccable eye for nuances of character and setting."
  • Christian Science Monitor "Dickensian. . . . A portrait of the changing face of northern England from the Thatcher era to the early days of Tony Blair. . . . So precisely rendered, one can easily imagine it becoming required reading for set designers everywhere."
  • New Statesman (UK) "A truly fine achievement. . . . It is a tribute to Hensher's powers of invention that this saga becomes so involving that no detail is too small. And Hensher is at his brilliant best in the details."
  • Independ "An enjoyable nostalgia fest as well as an acute cultural history of provincial England. . . . Engrossing, amusing and moving."
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