King of the Badgers by Philip Hensher
A Novel

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Synopsis

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 housing stock and chain stores—only when their neighbors have the presumption to claim also to live in Hanmouth.

When an eight-year-old girl from the outer area goes missing, England’s eyes suddenly turn toward the sleepy town with a curiosity as piercing and unblinking as the closed-circuit security cameras that line Hanmouth’s idyllic streets. But somehow these cameras have missed the abduction of the girl, whose name is China. Is her blank-eyed hairdresser mother hiding her as part of a moneymaking hoax? Has she been abducted by one of the lurking perverts the townspeople imagine the cameras are protecting them from? Perhaps more cameras are needed?

As it turns out, more than one resident of Hanmouth has a secret hidden behind closed doors. There’s Sam and Harry, the cheesemonger and aristocrat who lead the county’s gay orgies. The quiet husband of postcolonial theorist Miranda (everyone agrees she’s marvelous) keeps a male lover, while their daughter disembowels dolls she’s named Child Pornography and Slightly Jewish. Moral crusader John Calvin’s Neighborhood Watch has an unusual reason for holding its meetings in secret. And, of course, somewhere out there is the house where little China is hidden.

With the dark hilarity and unflinching honesty of a modern-day Middlemarch, King of the Badgers demolishes the already fragile privacy of Hanmouth’s inhabitants. These characters, exquisitely drawn and rawly human, proclaim Philip Hensher’s status as an extraordinary chronicler of the domestic, and one of the world’s most dazzling and ambitious novelists.


 

About Philip Hensher

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Philip Hensher is a columnist for The Independent, an arts critic for The Spectator, and one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. He has written one collection of short stories and eight novels, including The Mulberry Empire, King of the Badgers, and The Northern Clemency, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. He lives in South London and Geneva.
 
Published September 13, 2011 by Faber & Faber. 453 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for King of the Badgers

The New York Times

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As he demonstrated in his 2008 novel “The Northern Clemency,” which was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, Philip Hensher knows how to populate his fiction with a range of characters whose stories are kept moving by deft shifts in perspective.

Sep 23 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

The Guardian

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Philip Hensher's latest long novel seems to have been written with the heady ambition of bringing a Victorian breadth of satire to bear on contemporary Britain.

Apr 17 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

The Guardian

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Hensher takes us inside almost every house and heart in Hanmouth, but chooses to halt at the door behind which China is hidden.

Mar 26 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

The Telegraph

Philip Hensher’s latest novel begins and ends with a camera doing what cameras – impassively, invasively – do: watching.

Apr 12 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

The Telegraph

In Philip Hensher’s seventh novel the sleepy, picturesque Devon estuary town of Hanmouth, beloved of retired gentlefolk and artsy types, “the perpetrators of macramé”, is the perfect setting for the author’s latest dissection of the pretensions, peccadilloes and petty snobberies of pr...

Apr 08 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

Christian Science Monitor

Though well-known in Britain as a novelist, a columnist, an outspoken advocate of gay rights, one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists, and an all-around man of letters, Philip Hensher has made a mark in this country – to the extent that he has – as the author of "The Northern Clemency."

Sep 16 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

London Review of Books

Feeling perhaps that there are only so many minority coming-of-age stories a majority readership can be expected to embrace, a number of novelists have started to look for ways of remaining unapologetically gay writers without writing ‘gay novels’.

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The Roanoke Times

Hensher adds at the end of the novel a cryptic note, “London-Geneva March 2010,” perhaps an allusion to James Joyce’s note in the end of “A Portrait.” Hensher, too, has written a book satirizing all levels of his native land.

Oct 16 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

The New Yorker

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Sep 12 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

The New Zealand Herald

View commenting guidelines.We moderate our comments for legal reasons.We publish only a selection, due to high volumes.If you don't see your comment appear on the site right away, please give it some time - and try again laterWe moderate our comments for legal reasons.We publish only a selection,...

May 19 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

Curious Book Fans

While this storyline continues to run through the book, it mainly provides the background against which a wide range of characters in the town live out their lives and interact with each other.

Jun 03 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

New Zealand Listener

Click here for instructions on how to redeem your digital access.Or you can subscribe now to get unlimited access to listener.co.nz.More by Anthony ByrtBy Peter Kitchin By Sam Finnemore February 3, 2013 in The Internaut February 1, 2013 in Commentary February ...

Aug 06 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

Lambda Literary

Whether grieving parents, the widow of a war hero, or the slightly sadistic 13 year-old girl with a knack for homophobic slurs, Hensher observes the way people become unseen, and ultimately, the way the unseen band together and fight back against their observers.

Nov 20 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

The Paris Review

King of the Badgers, Philip Hensher’s seventh novel, comes on the heels of his ambitious, fictional survey of seventies Britain, The Northern Clemency.

Sep 27 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

Spectator Book Club

Perhaps only in the same way that John Updike’s Couples is a ‘straight novel’: the acrobatics may be diverting (Hensher includes, for instance, a detailed description of a marathon gay orgy) but it’s hardly the first thing you’d say about it.

Apr 09 2011 | Read Full Review of King of the Badgers: A Novel

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