Anthony Cummins

Meet the Neighbours

The Friendly Ones

By

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The Friendly Ones, a chunky family saga that is set in late-20th-century England but deals with the aftershocks of the 1971 war of independence in Bangladesh, seems at first to be more conventional than Philip Hensher’s previous novel, The Emperor Waltz, a century-hopping portmanteau concoction with no overarching plot. But that’s deceptive, and by the time you get to Hensher’s acknowledgements, noting that the plot of The Friendly Ones is ‘quite consciously taken from The Winter’s Tale and from Eugene Onegin’, you’re tempted to ask, what plot?

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