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Come and Tell Me Some Lies
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 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.

4 Stars.
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on 15 February 2018
I had previously read Hens Dancing and Summertime which led to me ordering this but I found it really disappointing. The story is based on Gabriella's life at home but jumps erratically. So life as a very young girl, a teenager and a young woman who has just left home flip between each other with no link between them. There are various episodes , simply told about with no explanation. For example a godfather , who hasn't been previously introduced is suddenly staying at their house and sets the bin on fire. But we are never told anymore about him, why he was staying and why the bin was on fire -was it deliberate or accidental? We never find out , it's never referred to again and doesn't really offer much to the story as a whole and there are several pages like this. I ploughed through it because I always finish a book but this hasn't left me wanting to read more of these books.
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on 17 September 2012
Raffaella Barker's first novel is a fictionalized account of her childhood in Norfolk, where she lived until her late teens with her poet father, teacher mother (who later became a novelist) and four siblings. Raffaella, the oldest of the children, is loosely disguised in the book as the narrator, Gabriella (rather irritatingly called 'Va Va' by her siblings), while George Barker is renamed Patrick Lincoln. Rather than tell her story chronologically, Barker gives us a number of vignettes of Gabriella's bohemian childhood in rural Norfolk, and Gabriella's life as a young woman in London. A basic chronology is maintained by Barker beginning the novel with Gabriella's birth and ending some 24 years later with Patrick's death. Otherwise the novel dots around in time, from Gabriella's eleven-plus exam to her early days in London, back to memories of childhood and on to teenage parties. This 'snapshot' technique is readable and enjoyable if at times a little confusing.

I enjoyed the book hugely for the depictions of Norfolk and for the vast cast of eccentric characters. Patrick is a particularly fine creation, with his 'drinking room' and his elaborate statements: 'Dearest, do not let these bambini disturb me when I am in my cups' and the like; with his love of Italy, wrestling, books and old cars and his quite splendid rudeness when bored. Eleanor, a former Classics scholar who wears a blonde wig when she drives a car to hide the fact that she hasn't yet passed her test and is thus driving illegally, and who bakes hot cross buns in the oven and forgets about them so they become charcoal, is also very memorable, and there are some vivid cameo portraits, including Barker's long-term mistress Elizabeth Smart, fictionalized as 'Liza'. There are some amusing scenes with the children, though I found the constant use of nicknames at times a little irritating, and Barker brought the whole crazy bohemian nature of the Lincoln family very well to life. For me, the main problem with the book was that the narrator, Gabriella, never quite came to life. I never got much of an insight into how she felt about her family, and how her relationship with her parents changed as she gets older, and her actions at times, such as refusing to work at A Levels, sulking at her parents and (being me, I was particularly outraged at this) sending her cats back to Norfolk from London unchaperoned made her seem a bit of a spoilt brat. Maybe Barker didn't want to reveal too much about herself in the book, and so used Gabriella more as a 'recording narrator' than as the novel's protagonist, but I would have liked to have known more about her. I felt that I never saw Gabriella's more vulnerable side or got to know anything about her life ambitions, what she really cared about (apart from her pony when she was a child, and clothes) or if she minded much that her family was so different to everyone else. Neither did the other Lincoln siblings really come to life as human beings - they all seemed incredibly robust, with no anxieties or self-doubt. This stops me giving the novel five stars but I would still recommend it as a hilarious (and short!) chronicle of a very unusual childhood.
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on 9 April 2014
I love this book to bits - funny, eccentric and evocative - a real comfort blanket. I read it often.
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on 12 June 2014
I loved reading this from the local library, so I decided to get a copy for myself, book came in excellent condition and I would purchase from this seller again.
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on 3 February 2007
Since this was Raffaella Barker's first published book, you shouldn't expect the sophisticated storytelling of "Green Grass" or "Hens Dancing". However, her prose is good and her touch is light, and if you like stories of big families living hand to mouth, then this is definitely for you. I would recommend it as an 'Underground' book: the chapters are short and sweet and perfect for the short journeys between stops.
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on 4 June 2003
This is beautifully written, imaginative account of growing up, narrated by Gabriella, the daughter of an English poet. It tells of "The myths of my family, favourite fables told again and again, brought out like battered photographs, nostagia-scented and made alive by scrambled memory...fairy-tales, fantasies grown from a seed of truth". Colourful memories of her Norfolk childhood with all her brothers and animals are poured out for us to paint the picture of a wild and bohemian family. At turns both funny and meloncholy, this is a wonderful book that gives us telling glimpses into the real lives of Patrick Barker and his literary family.
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on 14 January 2003
Raffaella Barker is an excellent writer and creates an amazing sense of character and place. She has a memory for those seemingly insignificant details that are really so telling, and that weave together to make a recreation of childhood and adolescence. Although frequently funny and sometimes hysterically so, this book seems also to be kind of tinged with sadness too. Worth reading.
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on 6 June 2003
I really enjoyed Hens Dancing, but this was nowhere near the standard of that.
It felt strangely disjointed, and I couldn't quite grasp the story - it just felt like a collection of memories. I found it hard to stay interested - I kept getting lost and having to retrace to find out who was who and what had happened to them.
Not totally disastrous, as despite the above it was an okay read, but I wouldn't recommend it. Hens Dancing is a different league - a million times better.
10 people found this helpful
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on 8 July 2014
Yes, please do come and tell me some lies rather than drone on about a few historical family anecdotes in an upper middle class world. I was so hoping that this book was going to be a great read after some very good reviews but I could not read it from start to finish; I could not piece together any story as such and found it to be a disjointed patchwork of the author's upbringing centred around her famous poet father. The prose was so dull that I found it hard to visualise the scenes. As it was Ms Barker's first novel, hopefully its successors are better.
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