The Northern Clemency

Philip Hensher

Beginning in 1974 and ending with the fading of Thatcher’s government in 1996, ‘The Northern Clemency’ is Philip Hensher’s epic portrait of an entire era, a novel concerned with the lives of ordinary people and history on the move. Set in Sheffield, it charts the relationship between two families: Malcolm and Katherine Glover and their three children; and their neighbours, the Sellers family, newly arrived from London so that Bernie can pursue his job with the Electricity Board. The day the Sellers move in there is a crisis across the road: Malcolm Glover has left home, convinced his wife is having an affair. The consequences of this rupture will spread throughout the lives of both couples and their children, in particular ten-year-old Tim Glover, who never quite recovers from a moment of his mother’s public cruelty and the amused taunting of fifteen-year-old Sandra Sellers, childhood crises that will come to a head twenty years later. In the background, England is changing: from a manufacturing- and industrial-based economy into a new world of shops, restaurants and service industries, a shift particularly marked in the North with the miners’ strike of 1984, which has a dramatic impact on both families. Inspired by the expansive scale and webs of relationships of the great nineteenth-century Russian novels, ‘The Northern Clemency’ shows Philip Hensher to be one of our greatest chroniclers of English life.

Reviews of The Northern Clemency

    • ‘Lovingly rooted in 1970s and 1980s Sheffield, “The Northern Clemency” effectively reclaimed a lost genre of politically astute, richly decorated provincial family saga for modern readers.’ Boyd Tonkin, Independent (Book of the Year)
    • ‘A tremendous book. Against an unfashionable 1970s background Philip 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. What a writer he is!’ Philip Pullman
    • ‘Wise and strong and unputdownable.’ A.S. Byatt, Financial Times (Book of the Year)
    • Alex Clark, Sunday Telegraph (Book of the Year)
    • ‘A remarkable novel…a cumulative effect of luminous richness, like a perfect piece of orchestration…something more than brilliant cleverness makes this novel extraordinary.’ Jane Shilling, Sunday Times
    • Philip Hensher’s new book shows that the epic, exciting, deeply engaged novel of society is not dead in England. The book has all the blessings of art, with the pulse of what Henry James called ‘felt life’ at the centre of its moral adventures.” Andrew O’Hagan