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King of the Badgers [Paperback]

Philip Hensher
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

29 Mar 2012

The new novel from the Booker Prize-shortlisted author of ‘The Northern Clemency’.

Hanmouth: a quiet, picturesque English seaside town. But behind closed, Georgian front doors and the within the artisan cheese shop, its residents live lives that are anything but.

When an 8-year-old girl goes missing from the estate on the fringes of the town, Hanmouth becomes the centre of national attention. Under the scrutiny of the investigation the extraordinary individual lives of the community are laid bare: the passions of a quiet international aid worker; a recently widowed old woman’s late discovery of sexual gratification; and a memorable party, held by the Bears.

Through the apparent civility and spiralling paranoia a small town, Philip Hensher brings us another brilliantly funny and perfectly observed slice of contemporary English life.


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King of the Badgers + The Northern Clemency + Scenes from Early Life
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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (29 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007301340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007301348
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,210 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

Review

‘Hensher at the height of his powers…the sort of thing George Eliot would have written if she was interested in gay orgies and abducted chavs’ Sunday Times

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

‘Each character in this astute, complex and enjoyable novel imposes him or herself with some sort of reality, even those we only glimpse through their kitchen windows.’ Lucy Daniel, Daily Telegraph

‘Wonderfully readable.’ Andrew Taylor, Independent

‘Often novelists write worst when they seem to be enjoying themselves most. With Hensher it is the opposite. His enjoyment in his own cleverness and fluency is infectious.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘As ever, one is struck, and seduced, by a coruscating intelligence, that manifests itself in dozens of literary allusions waiting to be uncombed …and hundreds of individual sentences burnished up to the max.’ Independent on Sunday

‘Hensher has established himself with “The Mulberry Empire” and “The Northern Clemency” as one of our most ambitious novelists. His ear for dialogue, sharp sense of the absurd and appreciation of human self-delusion recall Kingsley Amis.’ Guardian

‘Strong, sly, and also moving’ A.S.Byatt Books of the Year, TLS

‘Page by page, it is a powerfully delightful book, rich in pathos and drama, rowdy with life’ Edmund Gordon, TLS

‘Philip Hensher’s talent was evident on every page of ‘King of the Badgers’’ Leo Robson, NS, Books of the Year

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 and Geneva.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars surprisingly dull 24 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback
King of the Badgers begins well, and one is led to expect a kind of social comedy, with shrewd, if acerbic, observation of different characters in a smallish seaside town. The tone then becomes grimmer with the account of a supposed abduction of a little girl. After this the novel veers between two sorts of description: of different kinds of surveillance, by CCTV or by curtain-twitchers, and of various gay sexual encounters. The latter practically take over the book, with a gay orgy of tedious length and minimal relevance to anything one had supposed the novel to be addressing. The child turns out not to have been abducted, so the mother is arrested. There is no sympathy for her character or situation, no analysis of her predicament, at all.Then it turns out that the child actually has disappeared, this time really taken by a paedophile. Meanwhile, the numerous middle-class couples, whom I was unable to distinguish from each other, continue to meet and speak, but to no evident purpose. Two people die in a perfunctory way and eventually the child is rescued. There has been no genuine characterisation throughout- a teenage girl who is fairly repulsive at the outset suddenly stops being foulmouthed and behaves in a comparatively civil way, but no explanation is given. Her boyfriend vanishes from the book, as do several other characters, and one woman comes to prominence right at the end after having been cursorily mentioned right at the beginning. People are crazy or nasty or both, and that is roughly the limit of their characters. An uninteresting couple are dismissed to riches after being a bit worried about money and of the abducted and presumably traumatised child we hear no more. What is the point of this book? The only parts written with any gusto are the gay sex scenes. Read more ›
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sharply observed black comedy.... 28 Jun 2011
By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ayckbourn on speed! 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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3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite his brilliant best
Not Hensher's best. But still enjoyable enough. It's themes are CCTV and mIddle class observation with strong gay perspectives throughout. Read more
Published 18 days ago by tpryan
3.0 out of 5 stars a question of taste
The book seemed in good condition. As to the content, that is really a matter of taste, not mine actually
Published 5 months ago by Mr. R. F. A. Berger
2.0 out of 5 stars Too superior
We all know unpleasant characters of all social classes exist but it doesn't make for comfortable reading to fill a book with them only to mock them, however good the writing is. Read more
Published 11 months ago by meg keir
4.0 out of 5 stars Bracing Observations
The King of Badgers astonished me: the novel is an extraordinary exploration of lives in a small seaside town. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mr Blue Sky
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down.
The characterisation in this novel is excellent and there are a host of different characters whose lives Hensher reveals. I will definitely be reading more of his novels. Read more
Published 13 months ago by m j dawes
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
It starts well , is obviously cleverly written , but ,there is something rather unpleasant about the way he tends to sneer at most of the characters in a smug way. Read more
Published 15 months ago by I. Stuart
4.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet
I enjoyed reading King of the Badgers, although oh! the author pulls no punches. There were some genuine shocks awaiting. A happyish ending, though.
Published 15 months ago by London Lass
2.0 out of 5 stars Too 'clever' by half
One should always be wary of back cover reviews of a book that refer to the author relishing his own cleverness. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mr. Geoffrey M. Teece
3.0 out of 5 stars private eyes are watching you
Not sure what to make of this book. First I've read by Philip Hensher and I can't say I particularly enjoyed it although it did engage me. Read more
Published 19 months ago by mike sogno
4.0 out of 5 stars King of the Badgers
Love this book even more so as I live just out side the the town its based on !
it is the perfect description of Topsham in Devon !
Published 19 months ago by Bailey
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