The other week, I posted some of my pre-blog capsule reviews, and they got a good response. So, while it’s the holiday season and I’m still tweaking my new domain, here are a couple more five starred books for you:
Clear by Nicola Barker
Another of Nicola Barker’s amazing novels which just capture the ways and words of her characters so clearly. Narrated by 28yr old Adair, he works at the GLC and is drawn to watch the spectacle that was David Blaine suspended in a glass box by the Thames in 2003, and meets some interesting people there too. He is cocky and arrogant, but does try to think about things, and close to the start of the book comes out with this amazing simile describing the spectacle and egg-throwing public – I quote:
“it’s like the embankment is a toilet and Blaine is just the scented rim-block dangling in his disposable plastic container from the bowl at the top.”
You can picture it exactly can’t you!
During Blaine’s self-imposed imprisonment, Adie meets, falls for and is confused by Aphra, a gourmet cook, has many philosophical discussions with his landlord Solomon, and ultimately finds himself – in a sort of ‘I can see clearly now the Blaine has gone‘ kind of way (excuse my awful pun).
This novel just draws you in and doesn’t let go.
(10/10) May 2008
NOW: Clear, published in 2004, isn’t regarded as Barker’s best novel by a long chalk, but I remember being intrigued by the in-yer-face antics of these Londoners and I was definitely interested in the Blaine spectacle. I still have four others of her novels in my TBR (Behindlings, Darkmans, The Yips and In the Approaches). Suggestions which to read next?
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Thirteen by Sebastian Beaumont
Stephen Bardot is depressed after the failure of his business, and agrees to become a night-time taxi driver for a year. He finds that becoming nocturnal leads to a strange mental state due to complete exhaustion where nothing is quite what it seems. When he discovers that a house, 13 Wish Road, where he’s had a regular pick-up doesn’t exist, he begins to become obsessed and tries to get back into the zone where it was real. The Nurse tells him, ‘Thirteen is not a number, it’s a state of mind‘. This leads to many strange experiences including meeting the girls of his dreams, but then he starts to ask questions about Thirteen, and just when as he’s starting to come out of his depression, the events in the zone get very bad indeed …
Based on real experience of driving taxis and drawing from the author’s work as a psychotherapist, this is a many layered novel. Unlike many other novels which include experiences in altered states, this one is so skilfully written, you really believe in the dreamworld – it starts off so ordinarily as if it were part of normal life, that by the time you find out about it, you’ve been engaged with it for some time; when things get weirder you’re then drawn with it. Finally, you are left to make up your mind over what ultimately happens to Stephen, but the lack of a finite ending doesn’t jar, just keeps you thinking about what a good book it was.
(10/10) June 2008
NOW: I remember discovering Thirteen via Scott Pack’s blog, (indeed he gets a quote on the front cover of the paperback). This book and its successor The Juggler were brilliant mucking with your mind books – but I don’t know if Beaumont has written any more like this (he previously wrote several LGBT novels).
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Source: Own copies. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Clear: A Transparent Novel by Nicola Barker, 4th Estate paperback, 352 pages.
Thirteen by Sebastian Beaumont, Myrmidon Books, paperback 256 pages.