King of the Badgers by Philip Hensher

King of the Badgers is another book club offering that I’d probably never have picked up of my own accord – but that’s by no means a bad thing. It’s nice to have something completely out of my usual wheelhouse, and end up enjoying it so much that it’s hard to put down on holiday.

Ostensibly centered on the disappearance of an eight-year-old from a less desirable suburb of a stuck-up town, King of the Badgers is really the story of a community. Told in bursts and fleeting snatches from a multitude of views, it’s a scathing examination of middle class life and modern follies. (With definite shades of The Casual Vacancy, but a deal more panache.)

The characters are almost uniformly varying shades of loathsome, but there are still some genuinely moving beats, be they a distressing bereavement, sexual assault, or, well, a down-on-his-luck chap at his first gay orgy.

Not all storylines are satisfyingly fleshed out, particularly those of an eccentric artist and her flourishing friendship with a recent widow, which showed promise. On the whole though, King of the Badgers was a riveting read, and I’d happily read more by Hensher in future.

[Read from 21-32 May 2016]

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