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King of the Badgers Hardcover – 31 Mar 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (31 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007301332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007301331
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.7 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 439,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Hensher has written nine novels, including The Mulberry Empire, the Booker-shortlisted The Northern Clemency, King of the Badgers, and Scenes from Early Life, which won the Ondaatje Prize in 2012. He is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Bath Spa and lives in South London and Geneva.

Product Description



KING OF THE BADGERS is Hensher’s third exercise in social portraiture on a grand scale, after THE MULBERRY EMPIRE which made the longlist for the Man Booker Prize in 2002, and THE NORTHERN CLEMENCY, which made the 2008 shortlist. It would be gratifying to see the new novel go one better, not least because the prize has never been given to a large energetic and capacious novel about English life. The New Statesman

KING OF THE BADGERS is a rich and ambitious novel, which manages both to offer a convincing picture of different levels of English society today and to explore the shifting certainties of individual lives. The Scotsman

Cleverly shifting gear from time to time to keep us on our toes, Hensher hovers on the edge of black comedy and satire, but the dark shadows cast by the little girl’s disappearance restrain him from going too far in those directions. But Hensher has used an exceedingly sharp scalpel for this dissection of Middle England, and it would be a great disappointment if KING OF THE BADGERS didn’t follow his previous novel, THE NORTHERN CLEMENCY, onto the Man Booker shortlist. The Herald

It shows Hensher at the height of his considerable powers: superbly written, morally alert, and densely envisaged, with a rich cast and plenty going on.  KING OF THE BADGERS is a really good old-fashioned novel: the sort of thing George Eliot might have written if she was interested in gay orgies and abducted chavs. The Sunday Times

Philip Hensher’s wonderfully complex, paradoxical subject in KING OF THE BADGERS is the nature of privacy, and of its violation…His ear for dialogue, sharp sense of the absurd and appreciation of human self-delusion recall Kingsley Amis; his fiction, like that of Amis, is powered by a strong if unconventional sense of morality. And like Amis, he is one of fiction’s rarest creatures: a writer who can move readers to stifled snorts of recognition and them to outright laughter. The Guardian (Helen Dunmore)

Brilliantly done…as ever, one is struck, and seduced, by a coruscating intelligence…  Hensher is one of the few English novelists at work who a) is seriously interested in the varieties of modern Englishness, and b) has the intellectual resources to address them. The Independent on Sunday

The latest literary masterpiece from Booker nominee Philip Hensher. Grazia Magazine

An extraordinary, great pudding of a novel which confirms Philip Hensher as one of the most entertaining writers of Britain today.’ The Daily Mail                                                                     

Wonderful. The Bookseller

This is a powerful dystopian fable, with a leavening of black comedy. The Mail on Sunday

Brilliant, sustained and weirdly captivating ... Ultimately, of course, it’s the writing that carries KING OF THE BADGERS.   Hensher, as in all his writing, is sharp, wry, audacious, exact. Some scenes are heartbreakingly brief and marked by poignant restraint. Others are described in extraordinary detail, and peppered with piercing, oftentimes hilarious commentary. The Spectator

The book is wonderfully readable. Hensher's dialogue is marvellous, and so is his ability to mock his characters, but to do so with affection, even with compassion. The Independent

A powerfully delightful book, rich in pathos and drama, rowdy with life. The Times Literary Supplement

Behind closed doors seemingly ordinary lives are dissected, the mundane is mingled with shocking truths and sordid revelations, amid themes of privacy and surveillance. A literary accomplishment. Attitude Magazine

About the Author

Philip Hensher is a columnist for the Independent, arts critic for the Spectator and a Granta Best of Young British novelist. He has written six novels, including The Mulberry Empire and the Booker-shortlisted The Northern Clemency, and one collection of short stories. He lives in South London.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Denis Reed on 21 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What looks at first to be a straightforward child abduction thriller soon expands into the surreal ,paranoid and downright farcical world of the writer's small town creation.There are many strands to this as the lives of individuals brush against each other,intertwine,or,in some cases,penetrate deeply!!This complexity makes sense at the end but there were times when I was exhausted by the cast of characters and their lives.It was like being on a merry go round of a narrative that threatened to spin out of control,but never did.Ayckbourn on speed! In this whirl,the fate of the child becomes just another detail amongst the minutiae of everyday life,as such events do.At times I nearly gave up on it but,at the end, I was glad that i had persevered.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Scholastica on 9 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
Almost all of the action in this 436 page novel takes place in a smallish town, Hainmouth, in North Devon. It's the sort of town that attracts reirees from the city, arty types, and a few professionals to serve the local population. All in all, a bit of a melting pot with no small amount of archetypal British snobbery.

There is quite a large cast of characters, all very diverse, and quite a few things happen: a young local girl is abducted; the token gay couple of the town have a big gay night for a select group of friends; a lecturer from the local college pushes boundaries with her boss. In short, everyday local life under a microscope.

Did I enjoy it? Not wholeheartedly, I'm afraid. It felt very bitty - lots of different stories stuck together maybe? There's an abduction story, a gay story, an adolescent story, a bereavement story and the glue that is supposed to stick them all together is that they all live within shouting distance of one another.

I did enjoy the dissection of middle class life: the interactions between people as they either hide or disclose their prejudices is fun and yes, satirical. But I didn't think it was as clever or as brilliant as the blurb on the cover had led me to expect - there are far better published writers - Somerset Maugham and Alice Munro for instance.

So, mixed feelings overall from me - which doesn't mean that you won't enjoy it
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover
The King of the Badgers shows Philip Hensher at the top of his form. If you liked The Northern Clemency you will love this. Set in a fictional North Devon town, the book is inhabited with a huge range of (mostly awful) characters. On the surface everything seems fairly conventional but it doesn't take much scratching to find out the reality of their lives. In these genteel streets there is adultery, betrayal, cheating, lying, lying and megalomania! Catherine is thrilled that at last her son is coming to visit - and is going to bring his boyfriend. But David never succeeds in attracting a boyfriend and persuades the desirable Mauro to accompany him and pretend to be his partner to please his mother. Kenyon and Miranda seem like the ideal couple except he is having an affair and their daughter is an appalling teenager. Sam is a cheerful owner of a cheese shop in a long-term relationship with Harry but this doesn't prevent them from joining in the local gay couplings. The gay orgies portrayed are shown to be funny but at the same time somewhat pathetic. And then there is John Calvin the mad-as-a-hatter Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator.

The part of the book that is definitely not funny is the disappearance of China, a child from the local housing estate. Actually I retract that statement - there is much comic material here in the attitudes surrounding the disappearance. But the part dealing with what happens to her subsequently is unfunny in the extreme. He uses a different writing style and relates the shocking details as if he were telling a fairy tale.

The whole book buzzes with ideas and observations. Among the choices for Miranda's book group are Roberto Bolaño's Nazi Literature in the Americas and The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. READ on 5 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
I'm always interested in reading novels that some readers love and others hate--Marmite books, if you like. Since I really liked 'The Northern Clemency' I was pretty sure I would like this too, and I was right. The great things about Hensher is that he's interested in the world around him. Unlike the negative reviewers, I don't think he's in the least contemptuous of his characters: yes, they can be absurd and self-deceiving but many of them are are good-hearted, and capable of love. I think the comparison with George Eliot is apt--this is a panoramic novel with a huge cast of rounded, flawed characters.

Why not five stars, then? In the end I feel the connection between the plot strands is too tenuous--in particular, he seems to lose interest in the plot of the missing girl, which, since it provides the real element of evil in the novel, seems to make it rather less multi-dimensional than it promises to be.

There seem to be some complaints about Hensher's style. I didn't see anything wrong with it. In fact, I can't understand why some readers hate this novel. I do wonder whether it's the unapologetic and explicit gay scenes--but surely we've got beyond all that?
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