Barker, Nicola Wide Open

ISBN 13: 9780060933753

Wide Open

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9780060933753: Wide Open

As winner of the highly prestigious IMPAC International Dublin Literary Award, Wide Open beat out books by such masters as Toni Morrison, Philip 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.

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Review:

Reading a Nicola Barker novel is like taking a very odd drug. Her characters are unlike anyone you've ever met--and for that, perhaps, there's reason to be grateful. Take the cast of Wide Open, which includes Ronny, a homeless man we first meet waving at passing cars from a bridge. Only it turns out his name is not Ronny after all, but James, a name he subsequently bestows on the real Ronny, who is thereafter called Jim. Even though James/Ronny is right-handed, he insists on using only his left hand, because it helps him "concentrate." Then there's the real Ronny, a.k.a. Jim, who is utterly hairless. Not to mention Nathan, Ronny/Jim's brother, who works in the Lost Property department of the London Underground; Sara, proprietor of a boar farm in the beach town of Sheppey; and Sara's daughter, Lily, an angry, dirty 17-year-old who worships a boar birth defect she calls the Head. There's also Luke, a fat, handsome pornographer who smells like fish; Constance, an elfish optician in search of her father's past; and above all, the ghost of Big Ronny, Nathan and Ronny/Jim's father, who liked little boys.

Basically, these are all really, really creepy people, who do creepy and frequently nonsensical things. But the story Barker weaves out of their interactions is as compelling as anything in recent fiction, even if it operates by a narrative logic known only to the author. The reason is Barker's prose: vivid, urgent, wholly original. "He felt very strange, all of a sudden," one of her characters muses, "like this was a dream he was living, like this was a tired, old dream, and he didn't like the feel of it. Not one bit." Wide Open may on occasion feel like a bad dream of one sort or another, but the overall effect is more than absorbing: it's positively hallucinatory. --Mary Park

From the Publisher:

Award-winning author: Nicola Barker won the 1997 John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize (for a memorable work by a Commonwealth writer under the age of 35) for "Heading Inland". She was the winner of the 1993 David Higham Prize for Fiction (for best first novel or book of short stories) and the joint winner of the Macmillan Silver Pen Award for Fiction for "Love Your Enemies."

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