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King of the Badgers Hardcover – 31 Mar 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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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: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 615,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unlike the book group in Hanmouth, where ‘some can’t even finish the book after a month’s notice’, our group read and, monthly, enjoyed this book. Some thought that the author was better than Patrick Gale or Alan Hollinghurst at writing about this sort of setting and more humorous. Many want to read more from him.

Someone who used to live in North Devon said that this place was typical. He thought he knew a Miranda in real life. As in real life, we don’t learn too much detail about people: we only know about them from encounters. ‘It’s like The Archers on speed,’ one said.

There was a good description of Paddington and annoyance at slow people when one is rushing for a train

There were good references to popular culture.

We get stereotypes: upper-middle-class villagers are shallow, selfish, and fat: being lower-class implies you are uneducated, grasping, and willing to do anything; being gay means that you go to wild orgies with drugs. Straights’ are obsessed with anal sex
There is a UKIP tendency: criminals are likely to have black accents and CCTV is mainly to monitor youth.

I liked the notion of Devon as a suburb of London. I disliked the description of Simon Russell Beale as someone of “real quality” because I can’t stand him.

The repetition of ‘He made love to the little girl.’ Was creepy and one person thought that abuse was too serious a topic to weave a humorous story around.

One thought that the chapters were too short and wondered whether the author committed himself to writing a set number of words each day and stopped once that target was met.

There is a seeming absence of proof-reading or editing – someone flew from Rome to London but we are later told it was in the other direction.

It was well-written, so the Americanism of ‘donators’ for ‘donors’ was a little jarring.

We are still not sure as to the origin of the title.
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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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By debbie8355 TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 April 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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