Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “King of the Badgers” as Want to Read:
King of the Badgers
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

King of the Badgers

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  612 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
Here, Philip Hensher brings us the peaceful civility and spiralling paranoia of the small English town of Hanmouth. Usually a quiet and undisturbed place situated on an estuary, Hanmouth becomes the centre of national attention when an eight-year-old girl vanishes.
Hardcover, 436 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Fourth Estate (GB)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about King of the Badgers, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about King of the Badgers

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
May 29, 2012 Richard rated it it was ok
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
Feb 10, 2012 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
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


and J.B.
and Sam
and Rita
and Ralf
and Julia
and Yusef
anf Jimmy
and renaud
and Richard
and Alan again
and Lapin again
and Professor A
and Dickie Heat-Hot
and not forgetting Nix (Hi Nicola!)
and Mrs Blaikie (with love from Rufus)
and Herbert who said it's all quite laconic once
but especially and always and once more for my husband
and really just to say to all of them and probably some others too

[GR does not allow 'center' command, so I have to point out that thi
Nov 17, 2011 Larraine rated it it was amazing
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
David Gee
Jul 07, 2012 David Gee rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
Andrew Rumbles
Feb 17, 2012 Andrew Rumbles rated it really liked it
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
Helen Woods
Nov 03, 2012 Helen Woods rated it really liked it
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
Nov 13, 2011 Felice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 15, 2011 Paul rated it really liked it
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
Sep 22, 2014 Gerhard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2014
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
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
Jun 07, 2011 Felicity rated it it was amazing
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
Richard Moss
Jun 06, 2016 Richard Moss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I am a big fan of Philip Hensher's work, but initially I found King of the Badgers hard going.

For the first hundred pages or so, he seems to have almost complete contempt for his characters. This is a social satire of a small English town, so you'd expect some tang of acid, but this was initially too unforgiving.

Although mostly we are in middle class fictional Devon town of Handsmouth, there is a focus in the first section on a family from a poor satellite estate who's eight-year-old daughter ha
Nov 11, 2011 Simon rated it really liked it
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
Sherry Chiger
Oct 30, 2012 Sherry Chiger rated it liked it
If you cannot enjoy a book without liking or empathizing with the main characters, give King of the Badgers a miss. Few of the characters (and there are many) are people you'd willingly hang out with; more than a few you'd go out of your way to avoid. Along the same lines, if you prefer a more conventional structure to your novels, you probably won't like this one. The books starts out as is it's about a young girl's disappearance, but then the story line is all but dropped--though we do at leas ...more
Oct 28, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
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
Sep 09, 2011 Cate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 02, 2011 Yellowoasis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible, 2011
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
Sep 26, 2011 Shawn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Apr 30, 2012 Arna rated it really liked it
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
Mar 12, 2014 Beth rated it it was ok
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
Aug 24, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it
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.

Catherine Siemann
Nov 17, 2011 Catherine Siemann rated it really liked it
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
Jun 25, 2012 Gareth Evans rated it really liked it
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.
Kris Fernandez-everett
Oct 01, 2011 Kris Fernandez-everett rated it really liked it
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...
Mar 25, 2012 Joanma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Mar 26, 2012 Trish rated it really liked it
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.
Susan Zinner
Oct 25, 2011 Susan Zinner rated it really liked it
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...
Nov 29, 2011 Linden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Anne Kadet
Feb 20, 2012 Anne Kadet rated it really liked it
A real good time.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Afterparty
  • The Dubious Salvation of Jack V.: A Novel
  • Chapman's Odyssey
  • Saints and Sinners
  • Leela's Book
  • The Death of Eli Gold
  • A Man of Parts
  • Security
  • Waterline
  • The Hunger Trace
  • Derby Day
  • The Meeting Point
  • Lucky Break
  • Genus
  • Unconscionable (Richard Coleman, #3)
  • Gypsy Spirit: What My Boat Taught Me About Love And Life
  • We Had It So Good
  • The Facility
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
More about Philip Hensher...

Share This Book

“Why do we say ‘the cockles of your heart’?” David said. “Nothing to do with whelks, I suppose.” 0 likes
“Previously, gay life had seemed a merry series of cabinet reshuffles and rearrangements, in which everyone was single for a time, then paired off for a time. If you stood still with a welcoming smile on your face, sooner or later somebody would come over and sit on it.” 0 likes
More quotes…