By naming British novelist Philip Hensher's seventh novel, The Northern Clemency, the Amazon Book of the Year, the mega-store is about to foist an entirely new level of scrutiny on the Exeter English professor. Although The Northern Clemency was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize (nabbed by Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger), Hensher is now a couple months of publicity from becoming a real name in literary households. We break down Hensher's chronicle of the Thatcher years in his hometown of Sheffield and his mixed feelings toward his rising fame, along with the rest of Amazon's year-end list:Sure, Philip Hensher was #82 on a British Gay Power list, but now he's notching comparisons to John Updike, Jonathan Franzen, and Anne Tyler. The book concerns a Sheffield family experiencing "the last phase of its industrial greatness" in 1974 , and goes on to revisit the Thatcher legacy in glorious prose. Amazon editors targeted the book as soon as they saw the galleys, and they probably take extra-special pleasure in popularizing the remarkable novel on this side of the Atlantic, where it's considerably less well known since coming out last month.
At one point on the day of the awards, having been obliged to face a bank of photographers, talk to Russian television, and for the fortieth time in a month answer the questions "So, what is your book about?" and "How do you feel about being shortlisted for the Booker Prize?", I found myself actually running out of Hatchard's bookshop, where the photography session was taking place, almost into the oncoming traffic. I don't quite know how I would have coped if it had gone any further than it did.
Hensher is our new favorite English writer — too bad he is gay, him and Zadie Smith would make a cute couple. Here is the entire Amazon Top 10 year-end list, which includes both fiction and nonfiction: 1. The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher 2. Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg 3. Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein 4. The Forever War by Dexter Filkins 5. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski 6. The Likeness by Tana French 7. Serena by Ron Rash 8. So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger 9. The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon 10. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hadju This list goes up to 100.