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Darkmans Paperback – 27 Oct 2011

3.0 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (27 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007193637
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007193639
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 363,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘This is the work of a very fine storyteller indeed’ The Times

‘The writing is often hilarious. Barker carves up the suburban dinner party savagely, and anatomises the dodgiest builder on Earth…Nicola Barker’s writing is hugely attractive, because it conjures images and ideas from a tremendous wealth of inspiration. It is the product of a powerful, sprawling imagination’ Daily Telegraph

‘A loud shout of glorious, untidy, angry, joyous life. 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’ Guardian

'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’ Observer

‘A visionary epic’ Sam Leith, in the Spectator ‘Books of the Year’

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 received 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 novel, Behindlings, was published in 2002 and the following novel, Clear, was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2004. Darkmans, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2007, the 2008 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Award and won the Hawthornden Prize for 2008. Most recently, Barker's work THE YIPS has been longlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2012. She was named as one of the 20 Best Young British Novelists by Granta in 2005. Her work has been translated into over a dozen languages.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Despite being 838 pages long Darkmans never felt a long or arduous read, maybe because I was enjoying the joyfully meandering narration so much.

To talk about the plot of the novel is almost beside the point. Yes, there are story threads that run through, but they seem almost incidental, and not all are gathered neatly together at the end leaving the reader still caught in the mystery of who and how these folks in a modern Kent town become possessed (it seems) by characters from the past. When I was a kid I loved time-slip novels like Alan Garner's The Owl Service, and Phillipa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden, and always squeeze my eyes up tight to try to see a place as it was hundred of years ago, so this aspect of the novel greatly appealed to me.

The action doesn't (for the most part) move out of a tiny geographical area, the town of Ashford in Kent. When I've mentioned this to British friends over the past week or two, I've seen their eyes boggle in disbelief that anyone would want to set a novel there.

It's a nowhere sort of place, a transportation hub, serving the Eurostar service to continental Europe and torn up by roads. Whatever charm and history it had in the past has become pretty much obliterated in the interest of "development". But Ashford with its bypasses and Tesco's and substandard modern housing estates, is arguably the main character of the book, and the past comes back to haunt ... with a vengeance.

There's a relatively small human cast for a book this size, the interrelationships between those individuals are throughly explored.

Beede and Kane are a father and son with apartments in the same house while remaining essentially estranged from each other. Beede works in the hospital laundry and is fascinated by the past.
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By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
I must begin this virgin thread by declaring, loud and proud, that I am a big Nicola Barker fan. And having just read Darkmans, I can honestly say that it is a big Nicola Barker.

Nicola Barker writes about the south east of England - small towns and suburbia. In Darkmans, she visits Ashford in Kent - disappointingly without a single reference to the tank (try googling "Ashford Tank"). Her Ashford is a mediocre town of housing estates, modern shops and the Channel Tunnel rail link. Barker's characters, invariably, are a little eccentric and quirky, but not usually in any dangerous way. Darkmans is no exception - the principal characters are Beede and Kane, a father and son; Dory, Elen and Fleet, a family; and Kelly, Kane's ex-girlfriend. And there are also a dozen or so bit part players. The delight is that none of the characters is a stereotype. None is outstandingly rich or poor; outstandingly bright or dim. They are all ordinary folk, trying their best to play to their strengths. Of the principal characters, two really stood out - Fleet, the gauche five year old who builds models from matches and adores Michelle, the lame dog; and Kelly, a Vicky Pollard character who discovers religion.

Barker's world, as well as being eccentric, also relies on coincidence. Relationships overlap, characters play different roles for different people. In Darkmans, as the novel progresses, various characters also start to develop a close relationship with the past - specifically the time of Henry VIII's court and the building of Albi cathedral in France. This preoccupation with the past gradually takes on a more and more sinister air and starts to interfere with present day relationships.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not going to go into long plot explanations - others have done it already far better than I could. I just want to say that this is a magnificent novel. I've not read any Nicola Barker before, and I was just blown away by the sheer audacity and exuberance of her prose. Yes, this book is long, but within a few pages I was completely gripped, barely able to put it down as it built up an exquisite dramatic tension. Barker develops, layer by layer, scene by scene, an almost anarchic assortment of characters, throws them together and shows us the unpredictable results. It's an almost cinematic approach to novel-writing, and makes for a demanding read - you work hard to piece together the clues scattered in her narrative - but it's totally engaging and thoroughly rewarding.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Ashford in Kent, with its mildly risible strapline `Gateway to Europe', should be very pleased with Nicola Barker, who has taken its mundane amenities and sprawling blight of industrial estates and turned it into a place of infinite and magical possibilities. Chief of which is the idea that, lurking in its deep suburban reaches, there might be a small worm-hole in time through which Darkmans makes his way to the present century. Darkmans is John Scoggins who was Edward the IV's court jester, (banished for cruel jokes against Elizabeth Woodville, Edward's queen), who seems able, at will, to inhabit the modern day bodies he comes across, but chiefly, that of poor Isidore (Dory), the tall, goodlooking German (who has a captivating wife, Elen, a chiropodist, also prey to Darkmans' cruelties). We first come across Dory riding bareback on a stolen horse in the fort-like kids playground of a graceless local dining hall named The French Connection. He has no idea how he got there. The only person who can `see' Darkmans is Fleet, the small five-year-old son of Dory and Elen.

A large cast of characters inhabit this superbly edgy, utterly captivating novel. Chiefly we are concerned with Dory's family and Beede, a 61 year-old who manages a hospital laundry, and his son Kane, who half-heartedly deals drugs, both of whom are plagued by foot problems. Though they live in the same house, Beede and Kane have a further grim disability when it comes to communication - and how this aspect of their life is resolved is one of the triumphs of this book. Kane's ex-girlfriend, Kelly Broad and her bottom-feeder family also feature large. Events pile up as Dory sets Kelly's Uncle Harvey on to mend his roof (the scaffolding arrives on time, but not much else happens) and Isidore's psychotic episodes intensify.
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