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Darkmans Paperback – November 27, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
There isn't much plot to Barker's Man Booker-shortlisted novel (after Clear and Behindlings), but a cast of eccentric characters, a torrent of inventive prose and an irresistible synthesis of wickedly humorous and unsettlingly supernatural elements more than compensate for the loose itinerary. The novel is set in a contemporaneous British district bisected by the arrival of the Channel Tunnel's international passenger station, a sore point for one of the central characters, cranky 61-year-old Daniel Beede, distraught at the loss of local landmarks. Beede is estranged from his prescription drug-dealing son Kane, though they share a flat, where Gaffar, a muscular Kurdish refugee with a rabid fear of salad greens, takes up residence. Beede is friends with Elen, a podiatrist, and with Isidore, Elen's paranoid and narcoleptic husband; their young son Fleet is a spooky prodigy who, in one of this intricate tale's several instances of mind-bending nuttiness, may actually be Isidore's ancestor from nine generations ago. This improbable premise is supported by the boy's propensity for quoting bits of the biography of King Edward IV's court jester, one John Scogin, the dark man who haunts the book. Despite the story's plotless sprawl, any reader open to the appeal of an ambitious author's kaleidoscopic imagination will relish this bravura accomplishment.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Nicola Barker is one of Britain's most original and exciting literary talents. She is the author of two short-story collections: Love Your Enemies [winner of the David Higham Prize and the Macmillan Silver Pen Award] and Heading Inland [winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize]. Her previous novels are Reversed Forecast, Small Holdings, Wide Open Behindlings and Clear, the last of which was long-listed for the 2005 Booker Prize. Her work is translated into twenty languages, and in 2000, she won the IMPAC Award for Wide Open. In 2003, Nicola Barker was named a Granta Best of British Novelist. She lives in London.
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Top customer reviews
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Barker interrupts the flow of the story frequently to make comment. It took me some time to get used to this - I was trying to work out who was interrupting. It is never quite clear - sometimes it is an observer (the Darkmans?) and sometimes it seems to be the character interrupting his or herself. The effect is to make it clear that some other is in charge here.
The theme (as far as I could discern) is Chance. In order to make this clear to the reader, Barker has rather didactic dialogue coming from characters who would be unlikely to speak in philosophical terms. This jarred. But it has a great ending.
There is sometimes much to be admired about people who behave in a consistent manner. It does allow us to anticipate what they might do next. Here, we hope they might do some things in an inconsistent manner. However, since we have no idea about what's supposedly going on anyway, we also have no idea about what they might do differently that would make some progress in the matter at hand - the book.
What is staggeringly unbelievable about all of this is that while we are observing the (mainly) unlikeable characters doing things toward no imaginable end, we keep turning pages. Thus is demonstrated the force of hope (or the absence of any other way of occupying our time). After a while I was surprised to notice that I was starting to like too many of the characters.
Continuing in the same manner for months on end and pages the publisher no longer bothered to number, I reached the point where some more things happen that are either unexplained or unexplainable or both, but I knew that no matter what was going on it was fun to keep turning the pages - after all I had been turning them for about three years now without stopping, so something good must be going on. This unexplainable behavior on my part continued through the end of the book (I knew it was the end even though the words "The End" were not present because the next page was the blank inside of the back cover).
The most likeable characters were (for non-professional reasons) the hookers (non-professional because I'd already paid for the book not knowing about them and at the price of the book, I doubt there would be much professionalism applied had any of it gone to them). They, even when upright (though, due to medical reasons, one was usually found to be recumbent) displayed strange abilities to provide the comical elements to the whatever was taking place of a discernible plot.
But, before this review reaches the length of the book, I must try to put something into some form of order. The book is about people, coincidence (or some magical cause of stuff), their pasts more than their presents with virtually nothing about their futures. Their interactions, conversations (or whatever it was that sometimes passed for such), thoughts, dreams, and outright insanities demanded my continued reading. And, I will continue to read Barker.
Grab this one for the trip you'll take with some unique characters.
There are passages of linguistic brilliance followed by moments of astonishing clunkiness (at which point you wonder whether she let her cat take over). But all of it congeals into a fantastic, addictive mess.
I was very shocked when I read the ending of the book. I felt as if I had read a joke that lasted 820 pages only to miss the punch line. The only reason for the mediocre review is the ending. The rest is great!
Most recent customer reviews
the journey is the destination here: while said story doesn't lead to much,...Read more