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Darkmans by Nicola Barker


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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.

If you like Nicola Barker you might also like to read books by Susan Elderkin, Toby Litt and Rachel Cusk.


Darkmans by Nicola Barker

If History is just a sick joke which keeps on repeating itself, then who exactly might be telling it, and why? Could it be John Scogin, Edward IV's infamous court jester, whose favourite pastime was to burn people alive – for a laugh? Or could it be Andrew Boarde, Henry VIII's physician, who kindly wrote John Scogin's biography? Or could it be a tiny Kurd called Gaffar whose days are blighted by an unspeakable terror of – uh – salad? Or a beautiful, bulimic harpy with ridiculously weak bones? Or a man who guards Beckley Woods with a Samurai sword and a pregnant terrier?

‘Darkmans’ is a very modern book, set in Ashford (a ridiculously modern town), about two very old-fashioned subjects: love and jealousy. It's also a book about invasion, obsession, displacement and possession, about comedy, art, prescription drugs and chiropody. And the main character? The past, which creeps up on the present and whispers something quite dark – quite unspeakable – into its ear.

About the Author

Nicola Barker

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

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Book Info

Publication date

13th September 2007


Nicola Barker

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Harpercollins Publishers


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Literary Fiction
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