The Mulberry Empire

Philip Hensher

‘The Mulberry Empire’ is a seemingly straightforward historical novel that recounts an episode in the Great Game in central Asia – the courtship, betrayal and invasion of Afghanistan in the 1830s by the emissaries of Her Majesty’s Empire, which is followed by the bloody and summary expulsion of the Brits from Kabul following an Afghani insurrection (shades of the Soviet Union’s final imperial fling in the very same country in the 1980s).

The novel has at its heart the encounter between West and East as embodied in the likeable, complex relationship between Alexander Burnes, leader of the initial British expeditionary party, and the wily, cultured Afghani ruler, the Amir Dost Mohammed Khan.

For those who enjoyed William Dalrymple’s ‘Return of a King’, ‘The Mulberry Empire’ is a must-read.

Reviews of The Mulberry Empire

  • ‘There is pleasure here, in passion and in absurdity, in landscape and in conversation, in costume and in food. There is pleasure, above all, in writing. A delightful entertainment, a timely social and political commentary, and a highly literary and ambitious novel.’ Ahdaf Soueif, Guardian

    ‘Outstanding…Hensher reveals the significance of the small moment, of great figures seen in close-up, and of a subtle, sensuous intimacy with the fabric of these long-gone lives. The effect is exhilarating.’ Helen Dunmore, The Times

    ‘A huge, perhaps unique achievement…deeply human, gorgeous, glittering and never dull.’ Murrough O’Brien, Independent on Sunday

    ‘Exuberant, overflowing with life, highly-coloured, entrancing: a novel to lose yourself in…Nabokov said that the novelist must be storyteller, teacher, and enchanter. In this novel Hensher is triumphantly all three.’ Allan Massie, Scotsman

    ‘Loaded with exotic local detail, from London to Calcutta, St Petersburg to Kabul…Irresistible.’ Daily Mail