Scenes from Early Life

Philip Hensher

“At that time, there were children you weren’t supposed to play with. You knew why. Their parents had been informers during the war. And it hadn’t been long since you could have got into trouble for singing a song. My grandfather hid all his Bengali poetry in the cellar. “I was a baby during the war. We stayed inside for months. All my aunts took turns in feeding me. I couldn’t be heard to cry. You see, there were soldiers in the streets. They would have known what a crying baby meant. So I had to be kept silent. No, not everyone came out of the war alive.” One family’s life, and a nation – Bangladesh – are uniquely created through conversation, sacrifice, songs, bonds, blood, bravery and jokes. Narrated by a young boy born into a savage civil war, ‘Scenes from Early Life’ is a heartbreaking, funny and gripping novel by one of our finest writers.

Reviews of Scenes from Early Life

    • ‘An unostentatious tour de force, combining a tender and richly affectionate family memoir with a vividly evoked portrait of town and country life and the story of the birth of a nation. It is full of surprises’ Margaret Drabble
    • ‘Beautifully packed with detail … does for Bangladesh what Salman Rushdie did for India with Midnight’s Children … It is a remarkable re-creation of a land that most of us know little about’ Sunday Times
    • ‘This is his most purely pleasurable novel to date’ Daily Mail
    • ‘Highly impressive … for all Hensher’s accomplished ventriloquism – his ability to inhabit the voice of a Muslim child and a history teacher at the same time – his own voice is not lost … heart-breaking’ Guardian
    • ‘A deeply interesting book … The joins are seamless … It is inventive, clever and loving; a Booker candidate, I would have thought.’ Spectator
    • ‘…this delightful book shows for the first time what Hensher has largely concealed in the past: his heart’ Amanda Craig, Independent on Sunday
    • ‘…a remarkable piece of ventriloquism … Hensher proves himself a literary god of small things’ Financial Times
    • ‘Hensher has created a greater thing than just a record of childhood, or war. It probably isn’t Zaved’s story any more, but it’s great just the same” The Observer