With Tolstoyan sweep and Dickensian vitality, this epically involving historical novel relates England’s tragic adventure in Afghanistan, which began with the triumphant arrival of the Army of the Indus in 1839 and ended three years later in rout and massacre.
At the center of The Mulberry Empireis Alexander Burnes, a Scots explorer who travels to the unfathomably remote kingdom of Afghanistan and first befriends and then reluctantly betrays its wise and impeccably courteous Amir. But he is only one character in a cast that includes ladies and generals, princes and deserters, all brilliantly and sympathetically realized. At once stirring and harrowing, exotic and cautionary, and as vividly colored as a Persian miniature, the result is a tour de force of re-creation and invention.
About the Author
Philip Hensher is a critic and the author of five works of fiction, including Kitchen Venom, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award. One of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists for 2003 and a finalist for the W. H. Smith Literary Award for The Mulberry Empire, he is a columnist for TheIndependent and chief book reviewer for TheSpectator. He lives in South London.
“A rich and rumbling . . . historical novel . . . moving deftly between Afghanistan, England and Russia. . . . Beautifully drawn.” –The New York Times Book Review
“A book of epic ambition. . . . The Mulberry Empirecontains, like one of those glinting gold leaf domes in Central Asia, clusters of jewels, elegantly calligraphed wisdom and pleasing lines.” –The Washington Post Book World
“Brilliantly composed. . . . Splendid. . . . A wonderfully rendered historical novel.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“Stunningly accurate. . . . Full of riches. . . . Inspires an endless procession of gasps.” –The Christian Science Monitor
“[A] fine, fine work. . . . Masterfully drawn. . . . [Hensher] creates a distinct sense of a moment in history.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Prepare to be dazzled. . . . The Mulberry Empireis . . . executed with flair, confidence and great energy. . . . It’s a really terrific read and one hell of an achievement.” –Daily Telegraph
“Feverishly learned. . . . Riotously fertile. . . . [Hensher’s] Afghanistan is often strikingly imagined, as are his characters. . . . A giant compendium of Victorian styles, an empire of allusions.” –Chicago Tribune
“Brilliantly realised. . . . A delightful entertainment, a timely social and political commentary, and a highly literary and ambitious novel.” –Ahdaf Soueif, The Guardian
“Hensher depicts with Tolstoyan brio the terrifying chaos and dizzy unpredictability of war [and] reaffirms our confidence in the novel to shock, to challenge and, most usefully, to stir political change.” –St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“[A] wonderfully dramatic and idiosyncratic epic [with a] splendid cast of larger-than-life characters.” –Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered (NPR)
“A remarkable achievement. . . . The rich imagery and the vivid characterization of a splendidly varied cast make The Mulberry Empirea truly tremendous read.” –Mail on Sunday
“Ambitious. . . . His lush descriptions are a testament to his imagination’s ability to grow a few seeds of historical truth into a verdant narrative.” –The Seattle Times/Post-Intelligencer
“A joy to read for its structure, the scope of its conception and its imaginative use of historical detail. . . . You will be hooked.” –The Plain Dealer
“Exuberant, overflowing with life, highly-coloured, entrancing: a novel to lose yourself in.” –The Scotsman
“A grand tableaux. . . . Remarkably subtle. . . . Big, colorful and clearly timely. . . . [Hensher] is a splendid stylist.” –The Sunday Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey) “Irresistible. . . . Loaded with exotic local detail, from London to Calcutta, St. Petersburg to Kabul.” –Daily Mail
“Deeply human, gorgeous, glittering. . . . A huge, perhaps unique achievement.” –Independent on Sunday
“Lavish. . . . Engaging. . . . A panorama of the age of imperialism [with] a wealth of interesting cross-cultural insights.” –The Baltimore Sun
“Everything is massive, sumptuously-made and finished, the characters rich, lively and unexpected, the decor Victorian in its precision, variety and profusion.” –Evening Standard
“Wonderfully entertaining. . . . An expansive and ambitious novel, full of wit and intelligence, masterfully capturing a moment in history that reverberates to this day. . . . The Mulberry Empireis a joy.” –Toronto Star