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Behindlings by Nicola Barker

Behindlings (original 2002; edition 2003)

by Nicola Barker

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165372,171 (3.55)7
Authors:Nicola Barker
Info:Flamingo (2003), Paperback, 544 pages
Collections:Owned, not read, Your library, @JV
Tags:in: 2h, @jv

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Behindlings by Nicola Barker (2002)



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I read an odd little book called Behindlings by Nicola Barker. I’d ordered this one at the same time as Clear, which I found pretty compelling. The girlfriend had had a go at Behindlings before me, and she said that she just couldn’t get on with it.

I, on the other hand, am a big big fan. The story is, without doubt, fucked up. The main character is some kind of genius nomad who inexplicably has people who quite literally follow him 24/7. He sets puzzles for them, but never speaks to them. The story finds him as one group tries to solve an epic puzzle which involves many aspects of his past, drawing in people who thought he’d left them long behind.

Barker is a wordsmith of the highest quality, endlessly inventive and witty. She has a deft turn of phrase, and can throw you off the trail of what to expect from a paragraph. She writes in very much a stream-of-consciousness style, with numerous asides and parentheses, putting every thought of each character down on the page, even if it sacrifices grammatical correctness. The story is all.

It’s an acquired taste, no doubt, but worth persevering with. If I went back and re-read this, no doubt I’d find a hell of a lot more foreshadowing and clues in the early chapters, even though this isn’t a whodunnit. It’s not really anything genre-wise, just a story of this man and his groupies, for want of a better word. And it’s brilliant. ( )
  gooneruk | Nov 17, 2009 |
While this may be the novel Nicola Barker herself likes most of all, I think I preferred 'Darkmans'. I certainly like her style of writing as she really gets into the characters' minds and has two strands going at the same time, what they say and, in italics, what they're thinking, and I find this enriches the text and adds insight and often humour. Where I felt 'Darkmans' had more for me was in that I could relate to aspects of that book whereas I feel 'Behindlings' is more remote. ( )
  evening | Jul 2, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nicola Barkerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Diderich, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibert, CatherineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060933623, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:43 -0400)

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