The Three Button Trick: Selected stories

The Three Button Trick: Selected stories

Nicola Barker

The best short stories from perhaps England’s finest young female comic writer.

This selection of Nicola Barker’s finest short stories contains work first published in ‘Heading Inland’ and ‘Love Your Enemies’.

A sixteen-year-old girl, in ‘Layla’s Nose Job’, is burdened with a grotesque nose. But plastic surgery only serves to demonstrate that her strangeness isn’t just skin-deep. The discovery turns her ingeniously violent. In ‘Inside Information’, Martha, a professional shoplifter, becomes pregnant and attempts to turn her pregnancy to criminal advantage, only to find herself harassed by her foetus, which can not only talk but proves to have grisly plans of its own. In three related pieces (‘Blisters’, ‘Braces’, and ‘Mr. Lippy’) featuring Wesley, a charming but damaged young man, attempts at normality are grimly, inevitably defeated. In ‘The Three Button Trick’, one of Barker’s most naturalistic, a middle-aged woman, who’s been abandoned by her husband, discovers, thanks to the ministrations of several odd acquaintances, how little she needs him and how wayward and liberating true eroticism is.

Reviews of The Three Button Trick: Selected stories

    • ‘She is an excellent writer – unique, funny, dark, cute, sarcastic and clever. Her language is unfussy, direct, at times colloquial and then, just when it is needed to produce the right emotional counterpoint, elegant and formal. She doesn’t flinch from describing sadism, violence or ugliness, but never does so without warmth or sympathy…What could have been heavy-handed in another writer’s hands is transformed into something light, enchanting, moving. Highly recommended.’ Alain de Botton, Literary Review
    • ‘A witty, unique talent. She is a diligent scavenger with a clever eye for something funny, precious or sad. There is a magpie quality to her writing, the half-mawkish obsessiveness of a junk collector on whose stall one might glimpse something familiar, but not forgotten. Barker is at her best when writing sinister fairy tales and revels in the resilient oddness of the English sensibility, its lack of sophistication, its unconventionality, its peculiar cadences and little-noticed sense of the surreal.’ Rachel Cusk, The Times
    • ‘If her prose style wasn’t so devastatingly funny and totally original she might be someone it’s fun to hate. As it is, reading her short stories makes you wish you had a best friend just like her…No-one else in England writes like this.’ Tatler