- Perfect Paperback: 840 pages
- Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (1 May 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007193629
- ISBN-13: 978-0007193622
- Package Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 5.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 45 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,515,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Darkmans Perfect Paperback – 1 May 2007
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'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
From the award-winning author of 'Clear 'comes an epic novel of startling originality. If History is just a sick joke which keeps on repeating itself, then who exactly might be telling it, and why? Could it be John Scogin, Edward IV's infamous court jester, whose favourite pastime was to burn people alive -- for a laugh? Or could it be Andrew Boarde, Henry VIII's physician, who kindly wrote John Scogin's biography? Or could it be a tiny Kurd called Gaffar whose days are blighted by an unspeakable terror of -- uh -- salad? Or a beautiful, bulimic harpy with ridiculously weak bones? Or a man who guards Beckley Woods with a Samurai sword and a pregnant terrier? 'Darkmans' is a very modern book, set in Ashford (a ridiculously modern town), about two very old-fashioned subjects: love and jealousy. It's also a book about invasion, obsession, displacement and possession, about comedy, art, prescription drugs and chiropody. And the main character? The past, which creeps up on the present and whispers something quite dark -- quite unspeakable -- into its ear. 'Darkmans' is the third of Nicola Barker's visionary narratives of the Thames Gateway.Following on from 'Wide Open' (winner Dublin IMPAC award 2000) and 'Behindlings' it confirms Nicola Barker as one of Britain's most original and exciting literary talents. See all Product description
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Not for a long time have I come across a writer with such a playful feel for language. Her observations, too, are startlingly fresh and apt. Yes, the novel does rely heavily on coincidence, but then so did Thomas Hardy. I don't think her aim is to be 'realistic'. We're drawn into a more magical and mysterious version of the 'real' world, and leave the novel both entranced and enriched by the experience.
Despite the fact that for most of its 800 pages, nothing much happens at all, Nicola Barker's precise depictions of the machinations of human psychology should keep you fascinated throughout. The book's length allows the unfurling of a mind-bogglingly complex web of inter-relations between the characters, chance encounters become loaded with paranoid significance, and seemingly climactic episodes dissipate into the randomness of everday life. It's also frequently hilarious.
Ironically, the one let down occurs when plot rears its ugly head towards the end of the book - it's as if Barker felt compelled to tie-up the book's myriad loose-ends on a whim and (without giving too much away) you're left with a clumsy fusion of detective fiction, Jane Austen & Bulgakov. Whilst on paper, this might sound quite good - the fact that most of the book suggests that our lives are defined by random historical contingencies beyond our control means that it would be nigh on impossible to wrap the whole thing up neatly. This is probably why, despite its mammoth size, it feels short.
It's not very often that you come across something genuinely different in contemporary fiction, but Darkmans is the real thing. A big book with big ideas (time, history, memory, identity, jealousy, modernity and about three hundred other things) that doesn't have to wear its intelligence on its sleeve.
Not that it feels slow, however. I found myself caught up in the intersecting lives of the vibrant characters, and Barker's elegant writing. It plays as a social drama, with a twist that many of the main characters may or may not be possessed by a 500 year old jester, and those who aren't often have their own mysterious agenda.
You will finish this novel with more questions than answers, but that, I hope, is the intention!
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