King of the Badgers

I love my new book! It’s sharp and witty, but also special for me, because it’s set in a fictional estuary town in Devonshire (based on Topsham) so it reminds me of my time in Exeter. I loved going on excursions along the estuary, with the scenic train ride to Exmouth, and coming from a Mediterranean country, I used to marvel at the tide. The book cover reminds me of those picturesque towns.

There’s another reason why the book is special: I bought it at an author’s event at Exeter University, and I kept it like a treasure chest – literally – because I’d collected printed reviews of the book in a yellow A5 envelope inside the book. So when I opened the book, and the envelope, there emerged an interview with the author, published in Books Quarterly (I used to get my complimentary copy from the Waterstones on High Street) one review (by Keith Miller) in the Literary Review and a second, longer review (by Edmund Gordon) in the Times Literary Supplement. The book had just come out before it was my time to come back to Turkey, and the reviews kept popping up, so I thought I’d save them for some nostalgia. (I forgot what exactly there was in the envelope.) The rustle and the papery smell of the unfolding pages made me excited. It all reminded me of those coffee-fuelled reading sessions in various cafés around town. I’m going to savour my book slowly and read the reviews only after I’ve finished reading the book 🙂

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The novel is dense but engaging. Local people speak in dialect, children use slang. The characters are bold and funny. Some sentences:

“Kenyon led an orderly life, organized weeks in advance, planned in accordance with the convenience of the First Great Western train company. But there had been a last-minute query from the Department about the reported Ugandan infection rates in a paper he’d written for them; the Underground had groaned inexplicably to a halt shortly after Euston Square; pushing aside massively laden Spaniards who did not know which side to stand on, he had run up the black and greasy steps and iron escalators of the Underground, diagonal, hung and groaningly floating over great unspecified voids, like public transport envisaged in a nightmare by Piranesi” (33-34).

“Around him, everyone was tactfully engaged in things that meant they didn’t have to look at Kenyon just for the moment” (34).

“They were bony, pimpled youths with identically applied and variously successful haircuts” (37).

And, there’s a book group in the novel reading Roberto Bolano’s Nazi Literature in the Americas! So many familiar things in this novel… I’m looking forward to the time when I will be able to just sit back, relax and turn the pages, without having to worry about student assignments and finals. Just two weeks!

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