Customer Reviews


38 Reviews
5 star:
 (13)
4 star:
 (9)
3 star:
 (5)
2 star:
 (5)
1 star:
 (6)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ayckbourn on speed!
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...
Published 22 months ago by Denis Reed

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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. It is very well written, with characters that come to life and lots of brilliantly observed descriptions of the minutiae of everyday life.
The English are shown up to be petty, eavesdropping, gossipy and small minded through his...
Published 13 months ago by mike sogno


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars private eyes are watching you, 23 Feb 2013
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. It is very well written, with characters that come to life and lots of brilliantly observed descriptions of the minutiae of everyday life.
The English are shown up to be petty, eavesdropping, gossipy and small minded through his depiction of the good residents of Hanmouth. Pretty accurate I would say, but as I find those elements of our national psyche pretty unattractive, I found it hard to be amused by their goings on.
I didn't like any of the characters but I didn't feel Hensher liked any of them either. He seemed to me to have written the whole thing from a superior, judgemental standpoint.
I thought the book was interestingly constructed - I liked the way he interlinked the stories with a mixture of short and long sections and gave you an insight into the idiosyncrasies of each character at some point in the book. And it is no mean feat to create such an extensive and diverse range of characters and give them all something that keeps the reader interested throughout.
There were lots of clever scenes - a couple that appealed to me were Miranda's 'honest' talk to the new students and their parents and David writing fake English novels for Japanese girls to carry around. And I thought 'Lord What-A-Waste' was exactly the kind of name people in a town like Hanmouth would have thought up for an attractive guy who was batting for the home team.
Presumably the Neighbourhood Watch guy with the penchant for 'comic' accents (don't we all know someone like that?) was intentionally named John Calvin? The uneasy tension between the hedonists and puritans seemed to be a big theme of the book. Similar tensions seemed to exist between the chavs and the chav nots (or not-chavs) and between the locals and the metropolitans.
John Calvin also seemed to be connected to another big theme - that we are constantly under surveillance, which often leads to judgement. Technology is only the tip of this particular iceberg; the characters in the book are relentlessly observed and gossiped about by their neighbours. I live in a small town and the claustrophobic, inward looking attitudes that can develop when people's immediate environment becomes their whole world were very familiar.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ayckbourn on speed!, 21 Jun 2012
By 
Denis Reed (Stockton-on-tees, Cleveland England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: King of the Badgers (Paperback)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sharply observed black comedy...., 28 Jun 2011
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: King of the Badgers (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. (Ye gods, I'd be drummed out of my book group if I made suggestions like these!)

A sharply observed black comedy.

(I wondered about the intriguing title and looked it up on the internet. A few interesting references were found but none explained it completely.)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars surprisingly dull, 24 Dec 2013
This review is from: King of the Badgers (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. It would have been more honest for Hensher to have confined himself to those and not pretended to have anything to say about any other issues. His account of the abductor's repeated rapes of China, as "made love to the little girl" is presumably supposed to convey the warped consciousness of the paedophile, but it strikes the reader as inadequate, grotesquely tasteless and ultimately unengaged with the ordeal of the child. This is a very disappointing book as Hensher can obviously write, but a novel such as this suggests that neither his sympathies nor his powers of analysis are equal to his writing talent.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Loose Baggy Monster", 2 Jan 2013
By 
S. Benson (liverpool, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: King of the Badgers (Paperback)
I so much wanted to like this book! And, to an extent, I did: the integration(apart from homophobes like the odious Neighbourhood Watch man) of openly gay characters in the whole,rich community was great to see and well-managed; and there were set pieces of poetic beauty: eg mysterious opening scene on the dark waters, and the Wolf cliffside section.However, I felt there were far too many characters, so that we got rarely developed vignettes(though David, Mauro and, to a degree, Kenyon were quite fully developed characters).Nor did I find the abduction story was as convincingly integrated in the overall compass of the novel. It reminded of Edmund White, but not as emotionally powerful, in its "loose bagginess"; but in White I like that lack of censoring of material and letting it all just be piled in, whereas it didnt quite work as well, in that respect, for me, here.But who am I to say-a massively heroic effort, just by its very execution!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Marmite novel?, 5 Dec 2012
By 
M. READ (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: King of the Badgers (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?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars King of the Badgers, 4 Feb 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: King of the Badgers (Paperback)
A well written book about a number of people in a Devon town. There is a large cast of characters, & the author differentiates them well & makes them all individual & interesting. The author is not afraid to use strong language or to describe sexual activity, in particular a gay orgy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


33 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!, 18 April 2011
By 
debbie8355 "*" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: King of the Badgers (Hardcover)
I really liked the Northern Clemency (I gave it 4 stars) although it was a bit like wading through 700+ pages of hypnotic, literary treacle but this is an absolutely superb book. The King of the Badgers manages to be meandering and completely compelling with a colourful cast of characters from all generations. There's a main suspense filled plot combined with some beautiful writing. It's a fantastic read.

The first thing I did before buying this book was to check how many pages it was and I was relieved it was advertised as 300 pages. I wanted to read a few books on holiday and not be bogged down with one huge novel. However the description is wrong. There are 436 pages in this hardback copy so it may be somewhere in between the slim novel and whale killing edition you're expecting.

There are 3 distinct parts to the book. The first third is most comparable to the Northern Clemency. There are the usual acute observations of behind closed doors family life but in this case the doors are flung wide open with an 8 year old girl China going missing, Shannon Matthews style. The mother is hilariously photographed holding a 'Where is China?' sign. It is perhaps the least compelling part of the book observing the police and press conferences and there is nothing to like or hold your interest about tragic China's family. It felt like the least involving, couldn't really be that concerned about them, parts of the Northern Clemency.

It's set in the modern day fictional North Devon town of Hanmouth. Am I the only person in Devon who hasn't heard the degoratory term Grockle for outsiders? - saying that I only moved here 5 years ago so perhaps people say that behind my back. Although like in Hanmouth it's very hard to find many people who have lived all their lives in one place anymore. The time line is fairly short so thankfully it's not an epic trawl through the decades.

The quick 'insert here a paragraph' story snippets of political info were a little lecturing and grating e.g. did you know your DNA is kept on file for ever after minor offences and how the historic age of homosexual consent has left some people on the same registers as paedophiles. Which is awful when it comes to the police knocking on doors of local sex offenders when children go missing.

The book takes off in parts 2 and 3 with a shocking short chapter between the two. It's completely compelling and surpasses any of the characters, complexity and writing in the Northern Clemency. I can't think of anything to criticise. It's genius. It's moving and shocking at times plus has a wonderful party scene which surpasses the similar one in the Northern Clemency. Imagine the London gay scene attending an awkward 'meet the neighbours' house warming party. Old ladies, lap dogs and all. It's nicely contrasted with the gay orgy happening later down the road. Absolutely hilarious.

The humour is more apparent in this book or perhaps not hidden behind so much treacle. Even the final dramatic conclusion has some humour injected. There are some hilarious scenes in a fictional Barnstaple University where one lecturer says what she really thinks to her lazy students and bosses. In parts two and three you do care about the diverse characters and they are fantastic from the awful teenager Hettie who amongst her many teenage faults is homophobic to the gay misfit David and his almost boyfriend Mauro. The Hanmouth locals are also deliciously absurd and memorable. Eccentric, with a finger in everything happening in Hanmouth, Mr Calvin and his neighbourhood watch for one are very funny. One of the oldest characters Billa ends up doing a few memorable things too.

Very highly recommended. I remember writing in my Northern Clemency review that I thought a compelling rather than meandering story would be +5 star material from this author. This book has surpassed my expecations. It's meandering and compelling with characters that will stay with you a long time. Genius.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2.0 out of 5 stars Too superior, 12 Oct 2013
This review is from: King of the Badgers (Paperback)
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. I found the tone sneering and did not finish the book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Bracing Observations, 7 Oct 2013
The King of Badgers astonished me: the novel is an extraordinary exploration of lives in a small seaside town. Hensher's theme is surveillance and observation and through his eyes you sometimes feel as intrusive as the creepily pervasive CCTV that is infesting Hanmouth. There are plenty of comic moments - the grotesque teenage Hettie torturing her dolls, the middle-class book-group whose token conversation about The Book is quickly overtaken by a good gossip, and best of all, in a wonderful centre-piece, an extravagant gay orgy whose preparations mirror those of a polite getting-to-know-you drinks party across the road. But sometimes you can become blind-sided by loss, grief or outrage. The chilling "and then he went down into the cellar and made love to the little girl" left me far more shaken than anything more explicit could have done.

My major criticism would be that a surfeit of characters made me too frequently not know who was who. I felt this loss because those characters I did come to know were rich and interesting folk. A minor criticism is a jarring between the unpleasant Jeremy Kyle-esque world of the O'Connors and the comfortable world of the rest of the cast.

A bracing novel: because of the startling sexual frankness, but also because of it's refusal to blink, when it would have been more comfortable to look away.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First
ARRAY(0xadf7dcf0)

This product

King of the Badgers
King of the Badgers by Philip Hensher (Paperback - 29 Mar 2012)
6.29
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews