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Entertaining Downtime Read
on 20 January 2017
Raffaella Barker, the daughter of poet George Barker, uses her own interesting family history as inspiration for her first foray into the world of fiction writing with her debut novel 'Come and Tell Me some Lies' and, for a first novel, this a very enjoyable one to read. In her story, Ms Barker rechristens her father as Patrick Lincoln, an eccentric and almost impoverished poet, who, apart from the clutch of children he has with his present partner, the beautiful and free-spirited Eleanor, also has several children from his previous relationships. The eldest child of Patrick and Eleanor is Gabriella (whom I'm assuming is a thinly disguised Raffaella Barker), who narrates sections of her own story and who shares with the reader her unconventional upbringing in Norfolk. The story is presented in a series of vignettes and moves backwards and forwards in time; it also switches from a first-person narrative to a third and, in this way, the reader learns about Gabriella's early years and those of her various siblings; we read of the ramshackle old farmhouse they are brought up in; of her parents' unconventional lifestyle; of her deep love for her father; of Gabriella's attempts to fit in with the other girls at the selective school at which she has been awarded a scholarship - a situation which conflicts with the double-edged kudos of having a famous and rather distinctive parent; and we learn of her longing to escape to an independent life in London and, once there, of her pleasure at returning home to the security of her parents' love, and much more.
Raffaella Barker writes descriptively well of childhood and of the dichotomy of having parents who are exceptional, but are also exasperating and even embarrassing at times; she also writes beautifully of the county of Norfolk, and her depiction of bohemian country life is particularly enjoyable, especially the descriptions of the tumbledown, part-brick, part-flint seventeenth century farmhouse the Lincoln family live in. Patrick Lincoln is very well-depicted, as is Gabriella's mother, Eleanor, who has many eccentricities of her own (one of which is donning a blonde wig when she is driving without having passed her test, thinking the disguise will prevent her being caught). As a debut novel, this book does have its flaws and I wish it had been longer so that I could have learnt more about Gabriella's inner life and that of her siblings; however, despite a few quibbles, I very much enjoyed this amusing and enjoyable account of bohemian family life and would recommend it for those looking for an undemanding and entertaining downtime read.