Barker, Nicola Behindlings: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780060933623

Behindlings: A Novel

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9780060933623: Behindlings: A Novel

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.

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Review:

Behindlings, the fifth novel from Nicola Barker, is a welcome return, both in mood and in geography, to the gothic terrain of her Impac Prize winner Wide Open. Set in parochial Canvey Island, Essex, this book is inventive, funny, unnerving, and often magnificently strange.

Barker's Canvey (once dubbed "Candy Island" by Daniel Defoe) is, with its Wimpy Bar, dreary pubs, and long-cherished grudges, rumours, and secrets, a quintessentially English small town. Its emotionally damaged population is augmented by the "Behindlings" of the title, a gaggle of oddballs who follow, or more precisely obsessively stalk, the novel's enigmatic central character, Wesley. The architect of a chocolate company-funded treasure hunt, author of a pseudo-Nietzschean walking guide and the man behind the daring theft of an antique pond, he is a rather malevolent Pied Piper. Part Alvin Toffler-quoting, peripatetic environmental visionary, part immoral (and maybe downright evil) fraudster, he's also notorious for feeding the fingers on his right hand to an eagle owl "in an act of penance" for accidentally killing his brother.

Barker has always had a penchant for the surreal, and occasionally here both plot and characterization can get swamped in flights of absurdist imagination. She is perhaps too fond of the elaborate simile. The clackety, clackety of the "like" and "as" of her prose style is, from time to time, a little exasperating. Despite this, her narrative is so alluringly, so charmingly odd, bristling with puzzles and etymological games and full of wonderfully, devilishly comic touches, that it's easy to ignore its minor flaws. --Travis Elborough, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:

NICOLA BARKER is perhaps the most gifted young English female writer at work today. Wesley, perhaps the most gifted young English male character at work today, first made his debut in Nicola's story collection Heading Inland, in 1996. Her other published story collections are Love Your Enemies (1992), Small Holdings (1995) and Five Miles from Outer Hope (2000). Her previous novels are Reversed Forecast (1994) and Wide Open (1998). Her work is translated into more than a dozen languages. In 2000, she won the English-speaking world's largest prize for a single work of fiction, the IMPAC Award, for Wide Open.

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