The Mulberry Empire
by Philip Hensher
The Mulberry Empire tells in lingering detail a story of how the 1839 British occupation of Afghanistan came to happen, and then with chilling expeditiousness, how it met disaster. This novel about the First Afghan War is more a political than a military story, and more a story of men and women at high society's margins than of generals, statesmen and royalty.
Perhaps the most direct inference in the novel about the debacle's origin occurs in the wake of a social evening attended by Alexander Burnes, explorer and author of a book abut Kabul. "In the Duchesse de Neaud, the infection represented by Burnes's book had found a fertile carrier, one might say, since she passed on the main features of the contagion without proving profoundly susceptible to the virus itself. Like those wealthy invalids who complain bitterly of an influenza while all the time suffering far less than those to whom they will pass on the illness, she made a great deal of noise for a season on the subject of the central Asian principalities, and, having stirred up a great deal of pained opposition and concern, was satisfied to forget the subject..." 2002, 476 pages.
More info on The Mulberry Empire from Powell's Books
Other historical novels about invasions of Afghanistan:
Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser; in which Flashman participates in the First Afghan War More info
Kim by Rudyard Kipling; Kipling's classic about British and Russian rivalry in Central Asia: the "Great Game" More info
The Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield; about Alexander the Great's central Asian campaign More info
Nonfiction about the British in Afghanistan:
Beyond the Khyber Pass: The Road to British Disaster in the First Afghan War by John H. Waller
The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk More info
A Journal of the First Afghan War by Florentia Sale, a diary kept by a British officer's wife who appears as a major character in The Mulberry Empire More info
Back to Novels of Nineteenth Century Europe
Back to Directory of Book Reviews