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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Original and Fantastic Novels., 21 Feb 2010
I was unsure whether to give these two short novels four or five stars. The lightness of style, deft, lively characterisation and sense of surrealistic realism are wonderful but after finishing them I found them easy to move away from. On reflecting that they were the first longer pieces of fiction by a very original writer and I had devoured them at great pace, I decided on five.

The action of 'Reversed Forecast' kicks off in a small, rather seeedy betting shop with an aggressive act of vandalism and moves between struggling singers and manipulative greyhound owners through the flats of London, describing troubling allergies and petty crimes. The novel moves forward gradually without any sense of being forced by a plot and immerses the reader in the bizarre lives of its characters. It's short and the style is deceptively simple yet at the end you want to find out more about what happened to the characters. The theme of the novel seems to be about those chance moments, those moments of decisions that have a massive consequence and the potential that can be unlocked.
'Small Holdings' is set in a small suburban park facing up to cuts in its budget. It is inhabited by an eccentric group for whom the park is the most important element of their worlds. Doug is the powerful boss, ambitious to increas his empire while Phil is the shy gardener, happy with his life and unambitious. Saleem a vindictive one-legged ex-curator manipulates the two men. These wonderfully original characters are the core of this very entertaining piece of short fiction.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the usual bunch of unstable characters - fun to watch, 6 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Reversed Forecast (Paperback)
Similar in format to Wide Open. Set in London, mostly in characters flats, Barker introduces her usual cast of "never quite made its". Almost none of the characters have a whole picnic at their disposal and it is an enjoyable time turning the pages to see how their lives interact. Well written, it is like looking through a pane of glass at various lives I am pleased to say I missed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A two-for-one ticket to Barkerland, 22 Feb 2004
Nicola Barker is, for me, simply the most interesting novelist working in Britain today: here's a rather nifty re-packaging of two relatively short early novels.
"Reversed Forecast" is apparently a betting term, and gambling is one of the themes of her first novel. The reader is immediately plunged into the now familiar Barkerland: she was only 28 when this was published, but her utterly individual voice is already here; it could be summed up as darkly surreal, Monty Pythonish irony leavened by a surprising human touch (her characters are almost all oddballs, often losers; but she obviously cares about them, and she makes the reader care too). The central character, Ruby, is a likeable soul who experiences fewer difficulties with the business of living than most of Barker's creations: much of the plot concerns her unexpected acquisition of a racing greyhound. The rest of the novel's cast are decidedly odder: Sylvia, who has the bizarre ability to unwittingly attract flocks of birds of all kinds, and who is crippled by the allergic condition Bird Fanciers' Lung; anarchist Vincent; Stephen, who has a thing about Meryl Streep. The plot is (as ever with Barker) complex; but after a variety of darkly tinged mayhem, the ending is upbeat.
"Small Holdings" is shorter and more comic, though still with Barker's characteristic shadowy undercurrents. It involves the lives of a company of gardening contractors as they lose the franchise for the upkeep of a North London park. There's painfully shy Phil, our narrator; manager Doug, quietly going utterly off the rails, who blames the ills of the universe on the failings of the London postcode system; half-blind truck driver Nancy, with whom Phil is in love; fat, cherub-faced Ray... oh yes, and Phil's arch-enemy and tormentor, a female ex-museum curator with only one leg called Saleem. Barker does some utterly extraordinary things with this unlikely cast, and the book contains some remarkable set pieces: Doug's greenhouse-smashing tractor rampage; Nancy's Big Night Out; Saleem's near-seduction of Phil.
Both books are shorter and more anarchic than her later offerings, and to some extent feel like an initial working-out of themes she returns to in her later, meatier books. However, as an introduction to her offbeat world, this is a very attractive package.
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Reversed Forecast
Reversed Forecast by Nicola Barker (Paperback - 17 Nov 1994)
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