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Title: Behindlings
Description: Flamingo. 2002. (ISBN: 0007135254). Paperback. Paperback in good condition. Amazon 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 has more in common with the television comedy The League of Gentlemen and the cult film The Wicker Man than a work of contemporary literary fiction. It 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. Would-be-prizewinners and cranks are not the only ones drawn into his orbit. Josephine Bean, a local nurse and environmental campaigner; Katherine Turpin, a lascivious beansprout farmer maligned in his walking book; Arthur Young, a former employee of the treasure hunt's sponsors and Ted, the island's estate agent and closet seamstress, all seem to have a few reasons of their own for keeping an eye on Wesley. Barker has always had a penchant for the surreal, and occasionally here both plot and characterisation can get swamped in flights of absurdist imagination. She is perhaps, too fond of the elaborate simile. The clackety, clackety of the "like a" and "as a" 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. Ali Smith, TLS 'Marvellously inventive.. It is a new kind of book, and an intense kind of joy.'. Good.

Keywords: 0007135254

Price: GBP 5.60 = appr. US$ 8.00 Seller: Lady Lisa's Bookshop
- Book number: 23409

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