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Darkmans by Nicola Barker

Darkmans (edition 2007)

by Nicola Barker

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7552212,297 (3.68)154
Authors:Nicola Barker
Info:Harper Perennial (2007), Paperback, 848 pages
Collections:Your library, books I have read, Bex
Tags:october, 2008, fiction, UK, read in italy, demonic possession, Ashford, 21st century britain, rambling, ambitious, medieval, @bex

Work details

Darkmans by Nicola Barker

  1. 20
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (Widsith)
    Widsith: Both slightly bonkers Kent-based novels-of-ideas with supernatural elements...I think Barker is the better writer, but Thomas has the whole geeky-cool angle covered.
  2. 00
    The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (krist_ellis)

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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
A really long review but i'm kind of angry that i spent good money on this... I came to this book after reading Raw Shark Texts which is awesome, and wanted something similar. fail.

Darkmans reads like "master's thesis on court jesters (yawn) meets Enid Blyton for adults sans plot"

Darkmans was horrible, clunky, and after 686 pages, the story never really started, never makes any sense. is there a plot? not sure. and there's barely an attempt to tie anything together at the end... there's a few hours of my life i'll never get back.

these were so awful that i marked them in the book as i read.... there were many more..
* "for all intents and purposes.."
* "..that the most ferocious curmudgeon would do well to take umbrage at"
* every thing was "quite...." or "so very ....." "awfully..." - channelling Enid Blyton
* there's stacks more but i forget

Part1 is 126 pages and is almost unreadable. I felt like i had Attention Deficit Disorder. I could hardly read a sentence before it was split with parentheses containing some lame witticism or pun. i thought maybe the author was "narrating like a 16yr old". it would be a nice trick, but she wasnt.

Gaffar is a kurdish character in the book.. he cant speak english all that well. i "think" that the sections in the book where he's talking in kurdish have been set bold. But somehow the characters in the book seem to understand kurdish perfectly... and reply...???

about 2/3 of the way through the book i got a feeling that long, barely interesting, sections of the book were completely pointless, completely unrelated to the tiny thread of plot that was in this book. a few i remember:
* the Keeper of the Forest and his dog - quite a few pages spent on this and then...? what was that for?
* Beede's crazy moment in the house with the blood in the bathroom - never mentioned again..?
* Gaffar, his religious order and the fear of salad? (oh dear how many pages were wasted on this??)
* i know there's more but i forget

toward the end of the novel, most of the main characters eventually start mixing up their words with german or latin, or quoting whole sections of some incredibly dull text on court jesters. but they dont seem to think this is weird. they dont turn to other main character and ask "is the same happening to you?" seems a bit unlikely...

well ok in the last few pages we get a couple of lame attempts
* we find out scooby-doo style who it was that nicked the tiles (it was old man johnson by the way)
* Darkmans gets mentioned for a couple of sentences - who? what? where?
* we get a few sentences about gaffar's sect but nothing meaningful ( )
  calvin_xa | Jan 4, 2015 |
Fantastical in a strangely grounded way--dirty but elegant--forgetful but memorable. This book screams BritLit to me, and often I enjoy it (but not too often--i see a Booker Prize winner and steer clear). But sometimes i just can't stretch my mind across the Pond and into that world. This book just didn't work for me. ( )
  kbullfrog | Jun 17, 2014 |
This book is sort of like if you put Cloud Atlas into a blender. I certainly enjoyed it, though I was about halfway through before I became really engaged. When you're dealing with an 838-page novel, that's a pretty big commitment.

I found the characters very lovable and intriguing. Geez, my favorite thing ever was Beede asking Gaffar in mangled Turkish whether his father gets "leaf afraid." YES, so great.

Ultimately, though, I wanted it to cohere a bit more at the end. I felt like we were building toward something huge that I never got to witness. Did I miss it?

It might just be that I've been so deep in the 19th century lately that I have a preference for endings that add up to something less ambiguous and more definite. It might be that I need to go back and reread more slowly. But my guess is more that it's difficult to take things that have been deliberately scrambled and fragmented and then connect them. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
I loved every moment of reading this book. While I was away from it I needed to get back to it, which for me, is my definition of a supremely successful novel. ( )
  Phil-James | Sep 29, 2013 |

“The truth” Peta informed him, baldly, “is just a series of disparate ideas which briefly congeal and then slowly fall apart again….”

What can I say about Darkmans? This has been a very hard to review to write. Barker goes on a journey into an unusual haunting with a collection of unusual characters with an unusual approach. It’s, well, unusual. I got to the end of the 800+ pages and thought that it may not have been worth dedicating that many pages to the story she wanted to tell, but also couldn’t for the life of me think of how it could have been made any shorter and kept its essence. There are some wonderful characters and situations in this book which starts and ends mid-story. History repeats itself, historical characters come to life in the modern day, it’s a father son story, it’s a mother son story, it’s a story of chiropody and art forgery, of disappearances and re-appearances, of immigrants and incompetent builders. It is a great many things. It is not a neat book, there are no explanations, you won’t get to the end and have a light bulb moment, it is dark and it is curious and it is wonderful.

Overall – A great read but one that leaves you a little perplexed and maybe even uncomfortable. ( )
  psutto | Jul 9, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Barker is good at capturing the bizarre things people say, and there are some very funny moments. But after 800-plus pages the humour wears thin and the literary game-playing grows tiresome.
This is the work of a very fine storyteller indeed, one who has already won prizes for her fiction and doubtless will go on to win more. Perhaps not since Robertson Davies – whose What’s Bred in the Bone, also a jesters-and-forgery-themed drama of small-town fathers and sons, is in many ways the faerie godfather of this one – has there been so able a welder of the academic and the arcane.

Darkmans is a considerable work, but Barker does take 838 pages to say a little less than [Alan] Garner conveys in 173 [pages of The Owl Service]. One gauge, perhaps, of the difference between talent and genius.
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These demanders for glimmer be for the most part women,
for glimmer, in their language is fire.

Thomas Harman - A Caveat for Common Cursitors 1567
For Scott Ehrig-Burgess in Del Mar,
who filled out that comment card.
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Kane dealt prescription drugs in Ashford; the Gateway to Europe.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061575216, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:26 -0400)

Is it John Scogin, Edward IV's infamous court jester, who enjoyed burning people alive for a laugh? Or a salad-fearing tiny Kurd called Gaffar? Or a man who guards Beckley Woods with a Samurai sword and a pregnant terrier? A very modern book set in a ridiculously modern town, Nicola Barker's Darkmans is an epic novel of startling originality. A story of invasion, obsession, possesion, art, prescription drugs, and a chiropody. And the main character is the past, creeping up on the present to whisper something quite dark, quite unspeakable into its ear.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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