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Works by
Nicola Barker
[March 30, 1966 - ]

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Profile created October 2, 2009
  • Five Miles from Outer Hope (2000)
    It's the summer of 1981. You're stuck in semi-derelict hotel on a tiny island off the coast of Devon. You're 16 years old and there's nothing to do but dream and wait for Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" to come out, until a ginger stranger arrives, stinking of antiseptic.

  • Wide Open (1998) -- Winner 2000 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
    As winner of the highly prestigious IMPAC International Dublin Literary Award, Wide Open beat out books by such masters as Toni Morrison, Phillip Roth, and Michael Cunningham.

    It is truly extraordinary work of fiction, taking readers into a small English seaside town, and into the minds and hearts of its remarkable inhabitants --  a man named Ronny, weed killer by trade, who has some strange things in common with a man he finds dangling from a bridge; Nathan, the son of a pedophile, who toils in the Underground's Lost Property department, endlessly logging missing items; Sara, purveyor of her family boar farm, and Lily, her teenage daughter, tragically born with unformed organs and blood that refuses to clot.  Starkly original and at turns hilarious, sad, and hopeful, Wide Open brilliantly displays Nicola Barker's delightfully singular literary talent.

  • Small Holdings (1995)
    A comedy of errors featuring a mixture of quirky characters. A group of gardeners in a London park find themselves in crisis as an important meeting with the council looms.

  • Reversed Forecast (1994)
    An account of a week full of strange coincidences which affect the lives of Ruby and Sylvia. At the centre of the novel is the unforgettable Sylvia, an intriguing and haunting young girl to whom birds of all kinds are drawn irresistibly, despite her fatal allergy to them.

Thames Gateway Novels
  1. Behindlings (2002)
    Spurting with kinetic energy, nasty wit, and kindness to animals, Wesley ought to be a star. Or so it seems to the "Behindlings" -- followers who nip at his heels, turn up everywhere he goes, and lie in wait for him around every corner. They skulk through the dreary streets of their tiny English town, gathering their own scabby intentions, irritating habits, and weird manners, burying all differences in the common pursuit of their true prize, their Wesley.

    In Behindlings, the inimitable and ungovernable Nicola Barker takes her most compelling character to date, gives him his head and her novel, and sees him run off with her readers.

  2. Clear: A Transparent Novel (2004)
    On September 5, 2003, illusionist David Blaine entered a small Perspex box adjacent to London's Thames River and began starving himself. Forty-four days later, on October 19, he left the box, fifty pounds lighter. That much, at least, is clear. And the rest? The crowds? The chaos? The hype? The rage? The fights? The lust? The filth? The bullshit? The hypocrisy?

    Nicola Barker fearlessly crams all that and more into this ribald and outrageous peep show of a novel, her most irreverent, caustic, up-to-the-minute work yet, laying bare the heart of our contemporary world, a world of illusion, delusion, celebrity, and hunger.

  3. Darkmans (2007) -- Winner 2008 Hawthornden Prize
    Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Darkmans is an exhilarating, extraordinary examination of the ways in which history can play jokes on us all... 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 favorite 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.

    The third of Nicola Barker's narratives of the Thames Gateway, Darkmans is an epic novel of startling originality.


Short Stories
  • The Three Button Trick: Selected Stories (2001)
    Audacious, original, clever, poignant -- these are just a few words that describe the writing of Nicola Barker, a talented, award-winning author whose work brings to mind Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, and Maragaret Atwood.Now nineteen of her finest short stories have been complied into one brilliant, delightful readable volume.

    It takes young Carrie twenty-one years and a chance meeting with an eighty-three-year-old widow to realize she fell victim to her husband's "Three Button Trick." The main character in "Wesley" must work through his troubled childhood in a series of episodes involving masses of eels, an imaginary friend named Joy, and an unmentionable incident with an emu-owl. From erotic encounters behind clothing racks to a kleptomaniac with his organs on the wrong side, this daring and gifted writer never fails to surprise us, entertain us, and make us think.

  • Heading Inland (1996) -- Winner 1997 John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize for a memorable work by a Commonwealth writer under the age of 35
    Nicola Barker conjures up a fantastical world where an unborn baby escapes an unsuitable mother through a belly-button zip, a disgruntled job applicant steals his interviewer's garden pond and a new father feeds his hand to an owl. Her imagination is truly weird and wonderful, but what makes these stories work so well is that they are based on reality - a woman falls in love with her husband because his buttons are done up wrongly, a bitter old woman tries to trick a tramp, a man frees eels from an East End pie shop, a bride throws a tantrum on her wedding day. This collection brings to life a world which simmers just below the surface of the imagination, proving again that Nicola Barker is one of the most original young writers of her generation.

  • Love Your Enemies (1993) -- Winner David Higham Prize for Fiction; Joint Winner Macmillan Silver Pen Award for Fiction
    A collection of ten stories about people trying to find beauty in adverse circumstances. The first is Layla Carter, 16, from North London, whose nose is too big. The last is a lonely woman who meets a satyr in her kitchen and asks: "Can I feel your fur?".

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