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The Three Button Trick: Selected stories [Paperback]

Nicola Barker
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Jun 2003

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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo (2 Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007147988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007147984
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,318,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘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

About the Author

NICOLA BARKER was born in Ely in 1966 and spent part of her childhood in South Africa. She lives and works in east London. She was the winner of the David Higham Prize for Fiction and joint winner of the Macmillan Silver Pen Award for Love Your Enemies, her first collection of stories (1993). Her first novel Reversed Forecast was published in 1994 and a short novel Small Holdings followed in 1995. A second collection of short stories Heading Inland, for which Nicola received an Arts Council Writers' Award and the 1997 John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize. Her story 'Symbiosis' was filmed and broadcast on BBC2; another story, 'Dual Balls', was commissioned for broadcast on Channel 4 and shortlisted for a BAFTA Award. Her third novel Wide Open was published in 1998, and won the English-speaking world's biggest literary award for a single work, the IMPAC Prize. In 2000 she published another short novel, Five Miles from Outer Hope. Her fifth and longest novel, Behindlings, was published by Flamingo in 2002.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird, hilarious, enjoyable, quirky 13 Dec 2003
I borrowed this book from my local library to read on a long, overnight bus journey I was about to make. I read a couple of stories before I got on the bus and they made me think of people who would really appreciate them. I wanted to photocopy them and send them to my friends!
I tried to read the book in the wee small hours, but found that I couldn't because whenever I tried, I couldn't help gasping, sniggering or bursting out laughing. At 3am, I was disturbing the other passengers, so I had to stop. :(
I hadn't read a collection of short stories for a long time, but this made me appreciate the art form of this genre. It left me wanting more, so I'm about to start on 'Behindlings'.
So I'm giving this book as a Christmas present to the people it reminded me of. I hope they enjoy reading it as much as I did!
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2.0 out of 5 stars What a waste of time! 4 Sep 2008
By Angela the listener VINE VOICE
I feel a bit of a fraud because I didn't actually finish this collection. I hated it much too much, so it's perfectly possible the second half is an improvement on the first - it needs to be!

In the first half of the stories, there wasn't a single "pleasant" character. Each one is more vile than the last. Not one is a sympathetic character, all are warped and all unhealthily nasty.

Barker also takes a nice, easy holiday from using her literary talent [and I recognise that this DOES exist with my 2-star rating] by making the nastiest characters ugly or fat or old - not worthy of her skill at all, but a mealy-mouthed cop out.

All in all, a vile book full of vile people. Don't buy it!

Oh, and as a little extra, the promotion of the proven lie that all Jews bave big noses is unworthy and distasteful!
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