In the Approaches

Nicola Barker

In the Summer of 1971, a charismatic family seeks refuge in the quiet, English coastal backwater of Pett Level. Bran Cleary is a controversial Irish muralist; his fractious and promiscuous wife (and muse) ‘Lonely’ Allaway is half Aboriginal; their strange, sickly daughter, Orla Nor, is almost a Saint.

Thirteen years later, a shifty individual turns up in Pett Level, apparently determined to get to the bottom of the bizarre and ultimately tragic events which unfolded in the aftermath of that arrival. But does he really want to understand, or is he just way too close to the story to make any clear sense of it? And what of the locals who seem so determined to resist and undermine his investigations?

‘In The Approaches’ is a fabulously twisted comedy of very bad manners which starts out as a seaside idyll and ends up as a pilgrimage – sometimes sacred, sometimes profane, and frequently both at once. Set in a 1984 which seems almost as distantly located in the past as Orwell’s was in the future, Nicola Barker’s tenth novel offers a captivating glimpse of something more shocking than any dystopia – the possibility of faith.

Reviews of In the Approaches

  • ‘Its take on things of the spirit, somehow both rollicking and profoundly calm, comes complete with a vision of benign energy that opened on me after the book was closed and continues to resonate months afterwards. How did she do it? This masterful, sleight-of-hand, open-souled and anti-elitist generosity, unprecedented in the English novel right now, is like an injection of vitality.’ Ali Smith, Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year

    ‘A wonderful twisted comedy’ Observer

    ‘Full of invention and experiment, Barker’s comic energy is irresistible’ The Sunday Telegraph

    ‘I have never read anything like it … Barker is some kind of genius … The book is textured, playfully philosophical and increasingly moving. I read the last 150 pages at a sitting with my heart and mind stirred’ Observer

    ‘Nicola Barker is an author who transforms the mundane into the magisterial … Sounds a bit heavy going? Fear not, it’s also a delightful romantic comedy … More than the mere sum of its parts, it’s a novel that propels you helplessly forward into the light’ Independent

    ‘This novel – which is, among other things, an account of how two irritable, damaged and eccentric adults fall in love – is a riot’ Prospect

    ‘Exhilarating… she is an author whose comic energy is infectious’ Daily Mail

    ‘Mind-spinning’ Independent on Sunday

    ‘Hardy rebelled against Englishness, Barker exults in it’ Guardian

    ‘Lie back and allow yourself to be carried away by Barker’s bouts of brilliant writing and her extraordinary flights of imagination’ The Times

    ‘The antic virtuosity of Barker’s prose style … carries a kind of visionary intensity of its own … The sheer blethering strangeness of life thickens into a kind of metaphysical dimension’ Literary Review

    ‘The banshees Barker summons up in this delightful novel cast a magic spell over her readers’ Tatler