This is a rowdy, riotous tale, a tale in which the medieval past takes on a face, name, and occupation and roams around the humdrum town of Ashford, bringing chaos to the lives of those it picks on. No one is safe: not upstanding Beede and his drug-dealing son, nor teen chav Kelly who zestily finds God (much to the dismay of the Reverend responsible), or Gaffar, the tiny, amorous Kurd with an unusual fear of salad.
DARKMANS is a world where language snaps and crackles like static, twitching with barely containable energy. Past and present mingle and blur, and the lines between fantasy and reality, sanity and madness are continually rubbed out and redrawn - but by whose hand? And what about the grand scheme of things - is life a coincidence or is it a pattern, plotted by all-seeing, unknown forces?
The third of Nicola Barker's visionary narratives of the Thames Gateway, DARKMANS is a very modern book about very old-fashioned subjects: love and jealousy. It's also about invasion, obsession, displacement and possession, about comedy, art, prescription drugs and chiropody. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2007 and following on from WIDE OPEN (winner Dublin IMPAC award 2000) and BEHINDLINGS it confirms Nicola Barker as one of Britain's most original, innovative and exciting literary talents.
Shortlisted for Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2007 and Ondaatje Prize 2008.
'This is the work of a very fine storyteller indeed.' The Times 'The writing is often hilarious. Barker carves up the suburban dinner party savagely, and anatomises the dodgiest builder on Earth!Nicola Barker's writing is hugely attractive, because it conjures images and ideas from a tremendous wealth of inspiration. It is the product of a powerful, sprawling imagination.' Daily Telegraph 'a loud shout of glorious, untidy, angry, joyous life. Barker is a great, restless novelist, and "Darkmans" is a great, restless novel. At the end of 838 blinding, high-octane pages, I was bereft that there weren't 838 more.' Guardian 'When a new novel by Nicola Barker arrives, there is a host of reasons to break into a smile. Chief among them is that she is one of the most exhilarating, audacious and, for want of a better word, ballsy writers of her generation. And, in a publishing terrain that often inhibits ambition and promotes homogeneity, there is nobody writing quite like her.' Observer 'A visionary epic.' Sam Leith, in the Spectator 'Books of the Year' 'Darkmans is all about the ebullience of language, the erruption of the past into the present, the seriousness and darkness of jokes. It defies moderation because it celebrates misrule. Highly original and interesting, and doing it with conviction and sharp humour. I know I whipped through its more than 800 pages with attention unbroken. And I know that the very night I finished it, it showed up in my dreams. Seriously.' Literary Review 'An idiosyncratic, witty and utterly original vision of Albion.' Independent on Sunday 'There is a constant sense she might launch us into the minds of one of her psychotics and leave us there, and this gives her books a fearsome energy.' Independent 'Barker's flair for acidic description and ability to buff up the most tired old cliche and make it gleam serve her well in rendering this landscape in all its mundane splendour. Barker's fiendish sense of humour and her unshirking determination to play hardball with language make the journey there a rip-roaring and invigorating ride.' Glasgow Herald 'This book describes a world in which people, families, communities and old value systems have gone adrift. Paradoxically, while signifying loss, discontinuity, destruction, Barker's narrative also conveys a notion of people held together: this flowing, discursive storytelling washes along like the Thames itself, embracing everything. Surreal and satirical vision of modern life.' Financial Times Magazine 'Inventive, witty and well staged.' Sunday Times 'The wildest, cleverest, most original novel published this year. Even previous experience of Barker's haunting imagination did not prepare me for the tour de force that is Darkmans.' Ruth Scurr, TLS 'Books of the Year' 'There's been nothing in English quite like Nicola Barker's Darkmans - except maybe Barker's own novel Behindlings. Barker is an original, linguistically, formally and stylistically.' Ali Smith, author of 'The Accidental', in the TLS 'Books of the Year' 'Rich, sensual, almost synaesthetic powers of description and association.' TLS Praise for Nicola Barker: 'Dazzling!She celebrates the complexity of human experience.' The Times 'Insanely inventive. Her vision of a marginal Britain populated by drifters and desperados is fired by a comic energy that dances on the edge of self-combustion.' Guardian 'Barker's eccentrics are the stuff of pure farce. And they allow her to reinvent, joyously, the cogs, gears and mechanics of the genre. She knows, as Wodehouse also knew, how to rev up the language, do baroque variations on a phrase, even break into a kind of poetry.' New York Times
Nicola Barker 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. Her second story collection, 'Heading Inland', received the John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize. Her novel 'Wide Open' won the IMPAC Prize in 2000, and 'Clear' was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2004. She is one of Granta's 'Best Young British Novelists' of the decade.