Book - 2007
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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.

Publisher: New York : Harper Perennial, c2007.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 9780061575211
Branch Call Number: FICTION Barker Nicola
Characteristics: 838 p. ;,21 cm.


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SFPL_danielay Mar 02, 2016

A novel about medieval possession or the strains of life in modern England? It is hard to describe this novel but it is a lot of fun if you are willing to go along for the ride.

Dec 27, 2008

Deservedly shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize, Nicola Barker's Darkmans pivots on the various forms of upheaval wrought by the construction of the Channel Tunnel between England and France in the late 1980s to early 1990s. The Chunnel churned up lands and historic buildings, sundered communities and families, and both destroyed and created new employment and ways of life. The colourful, rambling cast of Darkmans is touched in numerous fashions by this disruptive force.

While the new housing developments and roadways literally pave over the history of the area, forces from the past still seem to bubble to the surface and manifest themselves in disturbing ways. Is the young boy Fleet autistic, brilliantly gifted, or is he possessed by the ghost of an evil court jester who was at one time banished to France from England? Is Fleet's father, Dory, clinically schizoprenic or also possessed by the same devious spirit? Elen, Dory's long-suffering wife and Fleet's bewildered but ever patient mother, seems like a put-upon heroine who also captivates hospital worker and amateur historian Beede and Beede's easygoing drug dealer son Kane ... but then might be a malevolent temptress as the many tendrils of plot and character swirl to a dizzying conclusion.

Even the more peripheral characters in Darkmans are vivid and intriguing. Barker orchestrates some clever use of typography to convey the idea of people speaking and conversing in multiple languages at once. Yet while so much going on at once would seem to defeat or exhaust even the most dedicated readers, you're left wanting more after a breathtaking 840 page sprint.


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Dec 27, 2008

It went without saying that the Chunnel (now a source of such unalloyed national complacency and pride) had caused huge headaches - and terrible heartache - in East Kent ...

When the developer's plans for the new Folkestone Terminal were initially proposed, however, it quickly became apparent that all this was soon about to change. Several farms and properties (not least, the many charming, if ramshackle homes in the idiosyncratic Kentish hamlet of Danton Pinch) were to be sacrificed to the terminal approach and concourse, not to mention over 500 acres of prime farmland and woodland, as well as all remaining evidence of the old Elham Valley Railway (built in 1884, disused since 1947). But worse still, the access road from the terminal to the M20 was due to cut a wide path straight between Newington and Peene, thereby cruelly separating them, forever.


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