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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. Her most recent novel, Darkmans, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2007. She is one of Granta's 'Best Young British Novelists' of the decade.
Photograph by Tony Davis
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012. The hilarious new novel from the Booker-shortlisted author of Darkmans, Nicola Barker. Nicola Barker's The Yips is at once a historical novel of the pre-Twitter moment, the filthiest state-of-the-nation novel since Martin Amis' Money and the most flamboyant piece of comic fiction ever to be set in Luton.
Delightful and quirky characters interconnect in this story set in a mediocre south east town, but nothing is mediocre about the plots or relationships in this delightful novel.The longest of this years Shortlist but worth the effort.
A 2003 Granta Best of British and multi-prize winning author, you’ve got to try her. Unusual, manic, incident-packed and highly original, it’s like being on a mix of amphetamine and booze, great fun. The subject matter is pretty sensational too for it revolves around David Blaine’s suspended starvation in his plastic box above the Thames in 2003. This reflects the circus that occurred beneath him. Much enjoyed and highly recommended. Comparison: Rachel Cusk, Toby Litt, Susan Elderkin. Similar this month: Gerard Woodward, Joyce Carol Oates.
Heading Inland is a funny, broody, saucy collection of stories about the kind of people you sometimes meet but might prefer to ignore. Barker creates a wonderfully fantastical and unimaginable world: an unborn baby escapes an unsuitable mother through a secret belly-button zip; a wayward and yet enigmatic man attempts to rescue eels from an East End pie shop; a young woman discusses her fascination in other women's breasts; a boy with his inside organs back to front desperately seeks attention; and a bitter old woman becomes bent on war with a tramp. This collection confirms Nicola Barker as one of the most versatile and original writers of her generation with a brilliant unconventional imagination she creates a new world that sparkles with dark humour.
Winner of IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2000, Wide Open is the first of Nicola Barker's Thames Gateway novels. Poking out of the River Thames estuary, the strange Isle of Sheppey is home to a nudist beach, a nature reserve, a wild boar farm and not much else. The landscape is bleak, but the people are interesting. There's Luke, who specialises in join-the-dots pornography and lippy, outraged Lily. They are joined by Jim, the 8-year-old Nathan and the mysterious, dark-eyed Ronnie. Each one floats adrift in turbulent currents, fighting the rip tide of a past that swims with secrets. Only if they see through the lies and prejudice will they gain redemption. Wide Open is about coming to terms with the past, and the fantasies people construct in order to protect their fragile inner selves.
From the Man Booker Prize shortlisted author of Darkmans comes a comic epistolary novel of startling originality and wit. Reading other people's letters is always a guilty pleasure. But for PC Roger Topping contemplating a cache of 27 undelivered missives, retrieved from a back alley in Skipton, it's a job of work. The quaint village of Burley Cross has been plunged into turmoil by the theft of the contents of its postbox, and no-one is above suspicion. Yet Topping's investigation into the curtain-twitching lives of the eminently respectable Burley Cross residents not only uncovers the dark underbelly of his beat, but reveals a hitherto unknown strength of character buried deep within the young flatfoot. The denizens of Burley Cross inhabit a world of epic pettiness, where secrets are the currency. From complaints about dog shit to passive-aggressive fanmail, from biblical amateur dramatics to an Auction of Promises that goes staggeringly wrong, Nicola Barker's epistolary novel is a work of immense comic range. Irresistibly mischievous, Burley Cross Postbox Theft is Alan Bennett with added Tamiflu, sex-therapy and cheap vodka.
The sly and subversive sixth book from Nicola Barker, one of our most funny and anarchic writers. It's the summer of 1981. Medve, sixteen years old and six foot three inches tall (a positive girl giant) is stuck in a semi-derelict art-deco hotel on a tiny island off the South coast of Devon, with the rest of her crazy family members. There's nothing to do but paint Margaret Thatcher mugs to supplement the meagre family income, wait for Soft Cell's 'Tainted Love' to come out and dream of literary murderer Jack Henry Abbott. Into this family affair, strolls 19-year-old La Roux (The Sauce), a deserter from the South African army with flaming ginger hair. It's not long before Medve and La Roux embark on a barbed flirtation, full of simmering sexuality and bad intentions, which ends in the very destructive Operation Vagina ... things will never be the same again.
From the award-winning author of Darkmans comes a comic epistolary novel of startling originality and wit. Reading other people's letters is always a guilty pleasure. But for two West Yorkshire policemen - contemplating a cache of 27 undelivered missives, retrieved from a back alley behind the hairdresser's in Skipton - it's also a job of work. The quaint moorside village of Burley Cross has been plunged into turmoil by the theft of the contents of its postbox, and when PC Roger Topping takes over the case, which his higher-ranking schoolmate Sergeant Laurence Everill has so far failed to crack, his expectations of success are not high. Yet Topping's investigation into the curtain-twitching lives of Jeremy Baverstock, Baxter Thorndyke, the Jonty Weiss-Quinns, Mrs Tirza Parry (widow), and a splendid array of other weird and wonderful characters, will not only uncover the dark underbelly of his scenic beat, but also the fundamental strengths of his own character. The denizens of Burley Cross inhabit a world where everyone's secrets are worn on their sleeves, pettiness becomes epic, little is writ large. From complaints about dog shit to passive-aggressive fanmail, from biblical amateur dramatics to an Auction of Promises that goes staggeringly, horribly wrong, Nicola Barker's epistolary novel is a work of immense comic range. It is also unlike anything she has written before. Brazenly mischievous and irresistibly readable, Burley Cross Postbox Theft is a Cranford for today, albeit with a decent dose of Tamiflu, some dodgy sex-therapy and a whiff of cheap-smelling vodka.
Shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize, an epic novel of startling originality which confirms Nicola Barker as one of Britain's most exciting literary talents. If history is a sick joke which keeps on repeating, then who keeps on telling it? Could it be John Scogin, Edward IV's jester, whose favourite skit was to burn people alive? Or could it be Andrew Boarde, physician to Henry VIII, who wrote John Scogin's biography? Or could it be a Kurd called Gaffar whose days are blighted by an unspeakable terror of salad? Or a beautiful bulimic with brittle bones? Or a man who guards Beckley Woods with a Samurai sword and a pregnant terrier? Darkmans is a very modern book, set in ridiculously modern Ashford, about two old-fashioned subjects: love and jealousy. And the main character? The past, creeping up on the present and whispering something quite dark into its ear. Darkmans is the third of Nicola Barker's visionary Thames Gateway novels. Following Wide Open (winner Dublin IMPAC award 2000) and Behindlings it confirms one of Britain's most original literary talents.
A brilliantly funny novel from one of our most unconventional literary talents, Nicola Barker. Some people follow the stars. Some people follow the soaps. Some people follow rare birds, or obscure bands, or the form, or the football. Wesley prefers not to follow. He thinks that to follow anything too assiduously is a sign of weakness. Wesley is a prankster, a maverick, a charismatic manipulator, an accidental murderer who longs to live his life anonymously. But he can't. It is his awful destiny to be hotly pursued - secretly stalked, obsessively hunted - by a disparate group of oddballs he calls The Behindlings. Their motivations? Love, boredom, hatred, revenge.