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The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher

The Northern Clemency (2008)

by Philip Hensher

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6963113,671 (3.62)66
  1. 20
    The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (KimB)
    KimB: Another very well written novel with a familial tension base. Set in Australia.

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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Wow. Really long. My kind of book - meandering British fiction set in the 1970s and 80s, but oddly misanthropic, despite the happy ending. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
A brilliant book and one that is very evocative if you remember the seventies and eighties. ( )
  Litotes | Aug 27, 2015 |
The Northern Clemency begins in 1974 and follows two families living in Sheffield, England for the next twenty years. The Glover family holds a party, to which many in the neighborhood are invited. When Katherine conceived of the idea, it was with the assumption that the empty house across the street would have new owners, but it isn't until later that the Sellers family arrives from London to take up residence. Over the years, the two families become more entwined as they experience the changes brought by those two eventful decades, from the miners' strike to the changes caused by their children growing up and beginning life as adults.

I love novels like this, where ordinary people live ordinary lives, relationships strengthen or fail under adversity, children struggle through adolescence and find a place in the world, events swirl around them, some affecting them greatly, others barely noticed as they go about their lives.

For the most part, this was an excellent book. Hensher writes with compassion and understanding for the weaknesses and desires of his characters. It's only at the very end, when the least fleshed-out character behaves oddly and is treated unsympathetically by the author that I felt my interest flag a bit. It's like the author needed an event, for something more dramatic than the usual family crises, when the novel's strength lies in just those mundane affairs and relationships. Still, this was a solid novel and I look forward to reading more by this author. ( )
1 vote RidgewayGirl | May 1, 2015 |
I really wanted to like this book--it's just the sort of thing I normally enjoy, but somehow I never warmed up to it. There are some good moments and some interesting insights, but I couldn't bring myself to care that much about the characters, and I couldn't shake the feeling that the author didn't much care for them either. Hensher's prose is fine, but the structure of the novel worked against it, I thought, letting characters or plots lapse so long that their impact diminished, or introducing elements that seemed like they were going to be pivotal, or at least important, and then just vanished. ( )
  savoirfaire | Apr 6, 2013 |
A wannabe Franzen book. Didnt work for me. ( )
  BCbookjunky | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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, and the details of Seventies food and decor are lovingly done: the mushroom vol-au-vents, the white wall units with brown smoked glass and the gold-tasselled sofas “glowering at each other across the drawing room like a pair of retired rival strippers”.
Hensher's epic novel is set in Sheffield and spans the rise, fall and return of the vol-au-vent as a social accessory. In the opening scene, timorous hostess Katherine Glover hands round plates of nibbles while her teenage son Daniel lolls on the sofa leering at the female guests, who are perturbed by his ill-concealed erection. By the end of the book it is the mid-1990s: Daniel has settled down and established a modish restaurant in a redundant forge, where the starters come speared to a foil-wrapped potato.
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In 1974, the Sellers family is transplanted to Sheffield n northern England. On the day they move in, neighbor Malcolm Glover has disappeared, convinced that his wife is having an affair. As the connection between the families deepen, the reverberations of this rupture echo through the years.… (more)

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