Reversed Forecast / Small Holdings: AND Small Holdings Paperback – 2 Jun 2003
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‘A clever and quirky tale…You’ll find Nicola Barker’s writing as easy to swallow as a glass of milk.’ Cosmopolitan
‘Edgy and comic, it succeeds by virtue of Barker’s flamboyant sense of the absurd.’ Elle
‘A highly original piece of writing…A bizarre tale with a refreshingly different approach.’ Bookseller
‘This marvellous short novel explodes into action, with Barker letting off fireworks and flares in all directions, performing dazzling verbal gymnastics as she charts the gardeners' progress through the maze of corporate finance and sinister personal rivalry…Barker’s ear for the language of in-fighting contrasts beautifully with Phil’s gentle devotion to the natural world…As a study in the nature of charisma, this is a hilarious and remarkably assured novel.’ Alex Clark, TLS
‘Funny and intelligent…Barker’s novel is about territory; the site of human rights, the fundamental reality which permits and governs the more complex struggles of body and mind…prose so absolutely focussed that one reads with the sense of a great truth being apprehended before one's eyes…Barker’s sense of plot and comic timing is faultless: she goes for big effects, which resound brilliantly within the small space her narrative describes, and holds the whole thing down together with writing that is resolved down to the last detail. “Small Holdings” paints the big picture on a small canvas, capturing in it the universality that is the essence of good writing.’ Rachel Cusk, The Times
‘Barker is adept at manipulating complicated groups of characters, knitting their lives together adroitly and watching them interconnect.’ Jonathan Coe, Daily Mail
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
"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...Read more ›