Just read, Darkmans by Nicola Barker


Oh dear, I think this is one of the most irritating books I’ve read in a very long time. I don’t think myself lucky to be alive at the same time as her, sorry Ali Smith. It’s not a terrible book by any means, there are some great ideas, themes and characters  but the book lacked cohesion as if everything was just taken for a stroll in the park then left to fend for itself. Too many characters, no plot to speak of, no central idea other than characters being loosely linked by the ‘darkmans’ of the title but not really because the whole ‘darkmans’ idea didn’t feel properly developed either. Some other ideas, notably about the language, I liked but this became very repetitive and again, not taken anywhere. Repetition almost seemed to be a theme and it got a bit boring. Love, loss and grief feature but not to a degree that you could say this is what the book is about, there are some history bits that feel a bit far fetched (the life of John Scogin, the supposed court jester who may or may not have existed in real life and, according to the book, seems to have lived for well over a 100 years). I think the worst thing for me is that this book was over 800 pages long and relentless. I didn’t find it funny enough to sustain my interest, I found the repetition unnecessary, the structure too – as if someone was screaming on a loop inside my head and I wanted to tell them to just pause and take a breath. It’s as if Barker tried to cram everything she could think of then she went away, thought of a few more things and threw them in too. Then just left them all there and sort of attempted to tie it all up with one bit of a speech/ message at the end, this in itself was actually quite good but by then I just didn’t really care anymore and wanted the whole thing over and done with. So glad I only had this book on kindle and not in actual paperback. Carrying that about would have driven me mad. Well, at least it’s done now.

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