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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever... inventive... captivatingly bizarre.
I had a little trouble initially getting into this book, but grew to love it with each passing page. The multiple, intertwining story-telling is cleverly handled.
The repeating imagery of things (life, true living) as "wide open" was brilliant. There were also bit so Steinbeck in here too... the attention to detail. And there is certainly Shakespearean...
Published on 16 Aug 2001

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars God I tried so hard to like this
I almost want to give this book more crowns because Barker is such a gifted writer and her imagination is breath-taking, but I have never picked up a book before that I found so difficult to read. I tried so hard, I persevered right through until fifty pages from the end but then I gave up - one of those 'life's too short' moments. Maybe I'll try it again some other...
Published on 24 Jun 1999


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars God I tried so hard to like this, 24 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Wide Open (Paperback)
I almost want to give this book more crowns because Barker is such a gifted writer and her imagination is breath-taking, but I have never picked up a book before that I found so difficult to read. I tried so hard, I persevered right through until fifty pages from the end but then I gave up - one of those 'life's too short' moments. Maybe I'll try it again some other time, because there was so much that was good about this book, but I felt like a slithery fish reading it - every time Barker managed to hook me, the scenery would change and she'd lose me again.
If you like a more-than-challenging read, then this is the book for you.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever... inventive... captivatingly bizarre., 16 Aug 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Wide Open (Paperback)
I had a little trouble initially getting into this book, but grew to love it with each passing page. The multiple, intertwining story-telling is cleverly handled.
The repeating imagery of things (life, true living) as "wide open" was brilliant. There were also bit so Steinbeck in here too... the attention to detail. And there is certainly Shakespearean identity twists all over the place.
I loved the book and will read much more of Barker. It's definitely not for everyone, though anyone with a zany sense of humor or for the bizarre will really like it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wide open, 7 Feb 2008
By 
Leyla Sanai "leyla" (glasgow) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Wide Open (Paperback)
Finished Wide Open yesterday and am left, as with most Nicola Barkers, feeling as if I have woken from a deliciously entertaining dream packed with unlikely scenarios and surreal twists.

We start off by meeting Ronny, a bloke who drives on the motorway every day for three weeks and spots a lanky guy waving from a bridge overlooking the road. One day, Ronny stops to find out what the guy wants. And straight away, within the first couple of pages, we're plunged into weird Barker territory, rich with coincidences and inexplicable events. Because it turns out the guy on the bridge and Ronny have a close acquaintance in common. Furthermore, the bridge man is also called Ronny and a number of other strange similarities also come to light.

Just as you're left wondering 'hold on a minute', the novel moves on to Sheppey. The two Ronnies are now friends, the bridge bloke has persuaded the other one to change his name to the bridge bloke's original name, thus setting the contrived scene for a case of mistaken identity.

Also in Sheppey are various quirky individuals. There's Lily, an angry, nightmare adolescent and her mother Sara, a boar farmer. There's fat Luke who, despite his fishy scent and rolls of flab, exerts a strange sexual attractiveness. Then there's Nathan, a gentle soul from Lost Property in Baker Street tube station, who's linked to several of the other characters and Connie, an angelic optician trying to enable execution of her late father's will.

As with most Barkers, the story is hugely funny and unexpected. The weirdo characters are involved in plenty of strange plot twists and, as in most Barkers, the dialogue is hilarious in parts.

But the total sum of the book is less than its constituent parts. Although I kept reading avidly, I ended up with the familiar 'eh?' type feeling so many Barkers instill. The numerous coincidences require total suspension of disbelief and the ending is unexpectedly harrowing and bizarre. Bridge Ronny remains an elusive, mysterious person whose motivations are unclear - if he has a mental health problem it's nothing recognisable, and the traumatic ending belies the gentle quirkiness we're seduced into believing of him.

I'll continue to read Nicola Barker because she makes me laugh and her irreverent style is always refreshing. But she'll never emerge as one of my favourite novelists simply because there are too many loose ends in her books that she neglects to explain. It's as if her wackiness is an excuse to slip through vastly implausible facts. I like my reality to be realistic, and that means disappointment at Barker's trademark numerous incredible coincidences and reliance on elements of the supernatural.

****0
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A funny, very human book about a world where awful things happen, 5 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Wide Open (Paperback)
This is my favourite of this author's books and she one of my favourite authors. Nicola Barker writes these idiosyncratic characters so effortlessly and the way she slams their lives into each other's is really exciting to read. The humour in this book is laugh-out-loud funny but this is the one of her novels that takes on a very black subject. And it does so in an intriguing way that will stay with you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hard fought journey to your own identity., 6 Nov 1999
By 
This review is from: Wide Open (Paperback)
Although a considerable effort is required to open yourself to this book, perseverance is reward with an ending that is both poetic and traumatic. A book focusing on the very nature of identity, and the consequence explicit in it, it shines a light deep into your soul. Indeed, as the title suggests, to enjoy this fine novel at its best one must be wide open.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Highly original, 23 Feb 2010
This review is from: Wide Open (Paperback)
Nicola Barker's third novel tells a strange tale set on the island of Sheppey and features wild boars, lost property, changing identities and a hunt for a mysterious ape. It is a novel full of the most amazing passages of sparky, brilliant, descriptive writing and unforgettable scenes infused with a sense of violence. Barker creates a galaxy of colourful characters with no toes or who smell like fish and who all seem to be engaged in strange quests with no real sense of direction and the end to the novel brings no real conclusion. I didn't enjoy this novel as much as others. I didn't learn to love the characters in the same way I enjoyed those in Reversed Forecast. At times, the movement between incidents and events seemed too random, just a bit too bizarre. However, I am looking forward to my next encounter with Barker's wonderfully, original world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars deeply dark exploration into another world, 19 May 2008
By 
R. E. Russnak "Love Energy Healer" (Berkshire ,UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Wide Open (Paperback)
Once started, I could not put it down. It is not a book where you can find comfort in identifying with any of the characters. None of them are particularly likeable, but then that is not the point in this book. How am I to know the deeper inner reaches of the psyche of someone who's life experiences are so far removed from anything that most of us experience in our childhood? To explore this terrain, we have to leave the roadmap behind, this is uncharted territory.
Some of the descriptive narrative sometimes make me think that the author has some form of expanded consiousness, as I experience it in the healing field. Her descriptions of the energetic exchanges between some of the characters are so close to the images often described in the energetics, that I really think that this book is a fascinating tale and highly recommend it to all my friends.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd and weird, I only really enjoyed it at the end., 1 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Wide Open (Paperback)
I felt this story had too many narators which made it fragmented and it took me quite a while to understand what was going on. It was only in the last few of chapters that the characters were linked together and I started to wonder how it would end. Not a book I shall pick up again in a hurry, although full points for originality
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No great experience at all., 25 Jun 2000
By 
D. C. Njoku (Bracknell, England) - See all my reviews
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Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Wide Open (Paperback)
I came to this book knowing it had just won a big prize. I had also heard that Barker's characters were hard to like. Both points made me think I'd enjoy the book, that I would find it a pleasurable challenge.
But I was disappointed. Yes, the characters are hard (replace that with impossible) to like - but so is the book. You don't care about the characters and you don't really want to know what happens to them. The only thing that can save a book in this situation is magically beautiful writing. But again Ms Barker doesn't deliver. She isn't a bad writer, but there's nothing exciting about her prose. It's rather bland and pedestrian.
So what is there to recommend this book? Nothing, as far as I can see. It's no great experience at all.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shellness Strangeness, 7 Dec 2009
This review is from: Wide Open (Paperback)
If you're delighted to find (as I was) possibly the first novel ever to be set in Sheppey, you might still feel a bit short-changed by this book. It doesn't say anything about the island except that it's very flat and bare, and that there's a bird sanctuary, some prefabs, a nudist beach and some black rabbits. Actually there's much more to Sheppey than that, and I wasn't convinced the author knows anything deeply about the island and its people. The scenery felt like a backdrop; the action, I thought, could easily have been moved to, say, Norfolk, the Isle of Grain, New Romney or Lincolnshire without too much trouble. In any case most of it only happens in a small part of Shellness, beyond Leysdown.

The characters though are refreshingly neither beautiful, rich (or even `comfortable') nor talented, and mostly not even young. They are comically odd, or sometimes just odd. One of them for instance is right-handed but insists on only ever using his left hand. There are coincidental meetings and sudden sexual obsessions and odd, arty behaviours. A farmed boar escapes and is shot. There's a long-lost-brothers subplot. There's a `damaged by childhood abuse' backstory that, in contemporary fiction these days, is rather less than original. There are letters from a bat-cave in South-East Asia. The point-of-view skips around disconcertingly, sometimes from sentence to sentence.

So to be honest I didn't quite know what to make of it! It won an award; so presumably someone thinks it's really good for reasons that are totally obscure to me. But I didn't hate it either. I guess it's interesting sometimes to read something that's so hard to pigeonhole, or even grasp any sense in, that it leaves you floundering!
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Wide Open
Wide Open by Nicola Barker (Paperback - 5 April 1999)
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