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King of the Badgers

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  485 ratings  ·  93 reviews
A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book for 2011

One of The Telegraph’s Best Fiction Books 2011

Far from London’s crime and pollution, Hanmouth’s wealthier residents live in picturesque, heavily mortgaged cottages in the center of a town packed with artisanal cheese shops and antiques stores. They’re reminded of the town’s less desirable outskirts—with their grim, flimsy hous
Hardcover, 436 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Faber & Faber (first published March 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Picturesque Hinmouth lies on an estuary in the southwest of England, and is close to Barnstaple University. These are obvious stand-ins for Exmouth/ Exeter and the University of Exeter (where Philip Hensher teaches English), and he surveys the lay of the social land with an intimate, brilliantly detailed eye. What happens to the snobs, yobs, busy-bodies, have-nots and ne'er-do-wells of Hinmouth and its suburban hinterland when a little girl goes missing and her unappealing family's story doesn't ...more
I bought and read this last November, as a kind of antidote to Julian Barnes's "The Sense of an Ending". The thin gruel of that effort, with its dull, forgettable main protagonist left me with an appetite for a real story, with characters that would actually engage the reader's interest. And yes, stretching this tortured metaphor a little farther, Hensher's book satisfied my craving - it's a hearty beef stew (or maybe a bouillabaisse), with a large cast of characters, satisfyingly complex plotti ...more
The new novel by Philip Hensher, King of the Badgers, is an ambitious state of the nation novel. It is a sometimes entertaining, sometimes horrifying dissection of a community. It satirizes, illuminates and exposes current manners and mindsets in Great Britain.

Taking apart middle class snobbery and pretensions is not a new endeavor for Hensher. In a terrific earlier novel, The NorthernClemency he did the same thing on a much smaller scale and in a historical context. The distance that history p
Andrew Rumbles
Hanmouth, Devon is an English village where the town’s inhabitants are happily living their daily lives. In the interests of civic safety they have agreed to install CCTV. As the story unfolds we also see their lives from the inside and all is not what it always appears to be. Why is Sylvie making collages out of penises cut from magazines? Why is the Brigadier’s wife always so chipper? What makes the new couple in town think they will fit in? Will their son enjoy his visit and who is his new fr ...more
To say that "King of the Badgers" is a strange book, is putting it mildly. I learned about the book by accident while reading the status of one of my favorite authors. She said that Hensher had made a disparaging statement about "thrillers." I guess it's a matter of taste. I like a good crime novel myself, but I do like to indulge in good literature also.

This book was strange but so well-written, I couldn't put it down. Hensher doesn't like all of the CCTV cameras that are all over Britain. I c
Helen Woods
I absolutely loved this book. I like everything Hensher has written but I enjoyed this book probably the most. He is a snob but his snobbery is a scattergun affair - no-one is safe - the smug, the rich, the poor, the dull and the eccentric all get a sharp seeing to before he marches on to have a go at someone else.
The story is about a town, which is on the face of it, a perfect English seaside town but literally no-one is as they seem. I particularly like the way the writer is quite savage with
David Gee
After his Sheffield saga THE NORTHERN CLEMENCY, Philip Hensher relocates to a small select township on the Bristol Channel with KING OF THE BADGERS (where does he get these weird titles from?). I'm sure many readers will take a guess at where Hanmouth is meant to be.

The book begins with the disappearance of an 8-year-old girl from the council estate on the outskirts. The case seems to fizzle out until a surprise discovery much later in the story. What Hensher concentrates on is giving a picture
This novel is one of those guilty pleasures one is reluctant to admitting how much you enjoyed it, as Philip Hensher spares no sacred cows, pieties, scruples or morals in this often grotesque and lurid, but extremely funny, skewering of middle-class society. Even the reader has his or her pretensions examined ruthlessly at one point ... and found to be sorely wanting, of course, as is everyone else under Hensher’s ferociously intelligent gaze.

In the fictional English town of Hanmouth, on the Bri
Here's what I had to say about an earlier Philip Henscher novel, The Northern Clemency: "One of the more engaging novels I've read recently, what appears at first glance to be a gentle, modest story about middle-class British family life reveals itself to be a multi-generational saga spanning two decades; in short, a novel about everything that's important, told with penetrating insight, brutal honesty, and wry humor."

King of the Badgers is anything but gentle. It stretches the concept of "famil
Though the book is ostensibly about a child abduction, Hensher's main theme in King of the Badgers is the distinction between public and private. This isn't, however, a simple screed about the proliferation of security cameras and the culture of surveillance in modern Britain. Instead, Hensher does a brilliant job of showing you the complicated interplay between his characters' public and private lives, between their inner thoughts and their outer performances, between their selves and their rol ...more
Phillip Hensher has done it again, although (thank goodness) in around two to three hundred less pages than last time (not that I didn't mind all the pages last time, but I do appreciate his economy this time around).
Once I started this book, I bunkered down for the weekend with a steady supply of peppermint tea and plenty of delicious baked goods. Curling up with this book was time to treasure.

The novel opens with the story of a missing eight-year old girl, China, in the town of Hanmouth (somew
Kelly Robinson
Badger writes a cutting social commentary in his latest novel, King of the Badgers, about a small picturesque village in Southwest England, Hanmouth, and its inhabitants. While the story revolves around the townspeople during the disappearance of a small girl from the public housing in the outskirts of town, this is not a mystery. Rather, the girl's disappearance acts as a tool for Hensher to dissect the lives of the townspeople - all of whom have great faults - whether it is the selfishness and ...more
Like many a 19th-century British novel, King of the Badgers opens with a detailed description of a town, in this case Hanmouth, a pretty coastal spot near the Bristol Channel. That all-seeing narrator's eye sees quite a bit more, actually, than the closed-circuit security cameras that a public safety committee has arranged to scan the picturesque streets. On the one hand, King of the Badgers is a classic story of a crime that takes place amid a varied cast of Hanmouth residents. On the other, it ...more
This is a good & thought provoking book. Set in a small town in Devon where a young girl goes missing from a nearby Council Estate. The disappearance of the child is not the focus of the story but provides a backdrop to some excellent character studies as the town goes about it's business with this event swirling around in the background - much like real life. Great writing with some quite poignant interactions between characters and some quite confronting ones. Teenager Hettie with her cree ...more
I loved this book. One review of it said that it set out to skewer almost every facet of British life, to which I’d respond, “You say that like it’s a bad thing!”
It was delicious, full of ordinarily eccentric and eccentrically ordinary characters, not many of them nice, many of them nasty, and almost all of them with something to hide.
Few of the characters were endearing, but they were people I wanted to believe actually exist behind the lace curtains of your average British town or village. Eve
Wonderfully written, especially the conversations, but so much less a novel than "The Northern Clemency." The title is something of a mystery, although I'm sure the explanation in the Washington Post's review is correct: "The title “King of the Badgers” comes from a 1965 children’s book by J.P. Martin, “Uncle Cleans Up,” that offers the same distinctly British kind of satire: savage, with a soupcon of tenderness. (In the kind of pun that Hensher favors, “badger” is also slang for a cruel person. ...more
An interesting look at contemporary English society - the tyranny of silence and issues of privacy. By examining stereotypes, he author manages to convey that while we are increasingly observed, there is just as much that we still don't know about our communities - and where do we say that enough is enough. What appears to start as a crime thriller/mystery veers quickly off into a social commentary, with the crime's resolution not really being pivotal to the denouement at all. Very few of the ch ...more
I really wanted to like this book because I had loved (& lent out) 'Northern Clemency' very much, but I really hated it. Philip Henscher has s very readable style, but the snide and mocking way he describes his characters is so unpleasant, it makes the book almost unreadable. The characters are all extreme stereotypes with every character conniving & lying to each other, with the exception of Billa (who is herself a stereotype of an old-fashioned but liberal woman). Deeply unpleasant boo ...more
This novel begins with the story of a missing 8-yr old girl, China. I kind of expected the book to continue with this theme. However, it focused on the loves and lives of the other residents in the British town of Hanmouth just referring to the missing girl from time to time.

Most of the residents appeared to have something to hide and there seemed to be a lot of gay love happening! It took a while to get into, but just got better and better.

Really loved this book - wasn't quite as ambitious as The Northern Clemency and so ever so slightly less absorbing, but it was still hugely engaging. Slightly disappointed by the ending, which didn't tie up all of the loose ends, but I think that might have been the point. In general, though, a really enjoyable book - I'll definitely be reading a few more of his novels and stories.
Catherine Siemann
Centering around the kidnapping of a young girl from a council estate on the outskirts of a picturesque Devon village, this novel deals with issues of class, gender, and belonging. Hensher excels at creating characters and drawing us into their lives; the novel suffers somewhat from jumping from set to set of characters, not returning to resolve certain plotlines.
Gareth Evans
Always entertaining, this book reads more like a few weeks of a soap opera (Ambridge-sur-mer with bigger and more explicit roles for Adam and Ian). It is true that's couple of the major plots are resolved, but so much is left hanging that I feel I should tune in for next week's episode. This would be no bad thing, it's great fun.
Set in a small town on the coast of Devon, this book is an astute and observant social commentary set in the present day. A girl from a family on the wrong side of town goes missing, the local Neighbourhood Watch continues to put up CCTV cameras everywhere, an awkward teenager has her first romance, recent arrivals try to make friends, an old gay couple host an orgy... The author Phillip Hensher writes with great wit and insight. I only really gave it four stars as reading about the present day ...more
Susan Zinner
Liked this a lot; biting wit and sarcasm reminded me of Evelyn Waugh. This was a close examination of the class system in the U.K. and was critical of certain laws violating individual privacy rights. Better than "The Northern Clemency" in my opinion...
Kris Fernandez-everett
I enjoyed the book, even if the ending a bit weak and the John Calvin character more than a little heavy handed... All in all, a very interesting, black comedic take on life under the watchful eye of CCTV Big Brother...
Another home run from incredible talent Philip Hensher. The way he shifts perspectives and incorporates characters and storylines is stunning, yet simple and comfortable. A book you can happily sink into. Highly recommended.
I really enjoyed this book. It's not one of the most amazing stories ever written, but Philip Hensher's writting is brilliant, absolutely entertaining and fun. I will definitely read more of his books!
Amicus (David Barnett)
I gave this wonderfully told and multi-faceted story only 4 stars because I found the author's lovingly detailed description of a homosexual orgy a little too strong for my taste.
A dense and entertaining read. The story of an English village with many characters and many secrets; also many CCTV cameras. Really a satire on English society.
Stunning - a dissection of contemporary Britain with a huge cast of excellent characters and a loosely-stitched together plot that doesn't go where you think it might...
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Hensher was born in South London, although he spent the majority of his childhood and adolescence in Sheffield, attending Tapton School.[2] He did his undergraduate degree at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford before attending Cambridge, where he was awarded a PhD for work on 18th century painting and satire. Early in his career he worked as a clerk in the House of Commons, from which he was fired over th ...more
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