This is my review of The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher.
I agree with reviewers who have found the book too long and clunky. I did wonder whether the book has been highly regarded by "experts" – even published- because of the author's literary connections. Some of the dialogue was well-observed and amusing in a painful way such as the bullying of Jim by his teenage siblings, or the interrogation of Sandra by the police. All too often, potentially dramatic situations were built up, only to be allowed to drift away – this may of course have been a deliberate comment on real life.
Much of the plot seemed rather pointless and unengaging – again like real life. Did I imagine that Sheffield people were being patronised somewhat? I felt towards the end that I was reading a rather bland soap opera. The constant switching from one point of view to another was interesting where characters were shown to perceive events or each other differently, but meant I did not build up any close empathy with any one character.
Certainly, with some ruthless editing, this could have been transformed into a thought-provoking, possibly memorably quirky novel.
And I never did understand the meaning of the title….