The Friendly Ones by Philip Hensher - review by Anthony Cummins

Anthony Cummins

Meet the Neighbours

The Friendly Ones


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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?

The novel starts in Sheffield in the summer of 1990, at a barbecue at the house of Nazia Sharifullah, a property developer, and her husband, Sharif, an academic. Their extended family, having emigrated to England either side of the war of 1971, remains riven by the actions of

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