Nicola Barker

If history is a sick joke which keeps on repeating, then who keeps on telling it? Could it be John Scogin, Edward IV’s jester, whose favourite skit was to burn people alive? Or could it be Andrew Boarde, physician to Henry VIII, who wrote John Scogin’s biography? Or could it be a Kurd called Gaffar whose days are blighted by an unspeakable terror of salad? Or a beautiful bulimic with brittle bones? Or a man who guards Beckley Woods with a Samurai sword and a pregnant terrier?

Darkmans is a very modern book, set in ridiculously modern Ashford, about two old-fashioned subjects: love and jealousy. And the main character? The past, creeping up on the present and whispering something quite dark into its ear.

Darkmans is the third of Nicola Barker’s visionary Thames Gateway novels. Following Wide Open (winner Dublin IMPAC award 2000) and Behindlings it confirms one of Britain’s most original literary talents.

Reviews of Darkmans

  • ‘When a new novel by Nicola Barker arrives, there is a host of reasons to break into a smile. Chief among them is that she is one of the most exhilarating, audacious and, for want of a better word, ballsy writers of her generation. And, in a publishing terrain that often inhibits ambition and promotes homogeneity, there is nobody writing quite like her.’ Alex Clark, Observer

    ‘Inventive, witty and well staged.’ Hugo Barnacle, Sunday

    ‘Surging energy… natural, comic, moving and even scary.’ Telegraph

    ‘Determinedly experimental…Barker is good at capturing the bizarre things people say and there are some very funny moments.’ Times

    ‘A novel of prestigious craft, energy, risk sleight of hand and linguistic generosity and acuity.’ Ali Smith, in the Observer ‘Books of the Year’

    ‘There is a constant sense she might launch us into the minds of one of her psychotics and leave us there, and this gives her books a fearsome energy.’ Independent

    ‘Rich, sensual, almost synaesthetic powers of description and association.’ Times Literary Supplement

    ‘Each of her works brims with electricity, energy and invention, with rude humour, originality and contrariness. Who else but Barker would produce an 838-page epic with little describable plot, taking place over just a few days and set in – wait for it – Ashford? For that’s what “Darkmans” is, and it is phenomenally good. Barker is a great, restless novelist, and “Darkmans” is a great restless novel. At the end of 838 blinding, High-octane pages, I was bereft that there weren’t 838 more.’ Patrick Ness, Guardian

    ‘An idiosyncratic, witty and utterly original vision of Albion.’ Independent

    ‘Barker is an extraordinary writer, we’re lucky to be alive at the same time as her. She’s one of the few people who can put the words “novel” and “form” together and make something we haven’t caught up with yet, that’s completely new. She’s a glorious writer. I hope she wins the Booker Prize.’ The Scotsman