Author(s): Nicola Barker
'Open yourself up again to all that terrible light and savage bliss and deafening reverberation ...' In the Summer of 1971, a charismatic family seeks refuge in the quiet, English coastal backwater of Pett Level. Bran Cleary is a controversial Irish muralist; his fractious and promiscuous wife (and muse) 'Lonely' Allaway is half Aboriginal; their strange, sickly daughter, Orla Nor, is almost a Saint. Thirteen years later, a shifty individual turns up in Pett Level, apparently determined to get to the bottom of the bizarre and ultimately tragic events which unfolded in the aftermath of that arrival. But does he really want to understand, or is he just way too close to the story to make any clear sense of it? And what of the locals who seem so determined to resist and undermine his investigations? 'In The Approaches' is a fabulously twisted comedy of very bad manners which starts out as a seaside idyll and ends up as a pilgrimage - sometimes sacred, sometimes profane, and frequently both at once. Set in a 1984 which seems almost as distantly located in the past as Orwell's was in the future, Nicola Barker's tenth novel offers a captivating glimpse of something more shocking than any dystopia - the possibility of faith.
'Its take on things of the spirit, somehow both rollicking and profoundly calm, comes complete with a vision of benign energy that opened on me after the book was closed and continues to resonate months afterwards. How did she do it? This masterful, sleight-of-hand, open-souled and anti-elitist generosity, unprecedented in the English novel right now, is like an injection of vitality.' Ali Smith, Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year 'I have never read anything like it ... Barker is some kind of genius ... The book is textured, playfully philosophical and increasingly moving. I read the last 150 pages at a sitting with my heart and mind stirred... And yet it's also funny' Observer 'With her cast of extravagant characters, a refusal to be tied down to anything as parochial as a traditional plot or narrative arc, near-farcical humour and big ideas, Nicola Barker is an author who transforms the mundane into the magisterial ... Sounds a bit heavy going? Fear not, it's also a delightful romantic comedy ... More than the mere sum of its parts, it's a novel that propels you helplessly forward into the light' Independent 'This novel - which is, among other things, an account of how two irritable, damaged and eccentric adults fall in love - is a riot' Prospect 'Exhilarating... she is an author whose comic energy is infectious' Daily Mail 'Mind-spinning' Independent on Sunday 'Hardy rebelled against Englishness, Barker exults in it' Guardian 'Lie back and allow yourself to be carried away by Barker's bouts of brilliant writing and her extraordinary flights of imagination' The Times 'The antic virtuosity of Barker's prose style ... carries a kind of visionary intensity of its own. There's a sort of realism in play, too - a magical or, better perhaps, mystical realism ... the sheer blethering strangeness of life thickens into a kind of metaphysical dimension' Literary Review 'The banshees Barker summons up in this delightful novel cast a magic spell over her readers' Tatler
Nicola Barker was born in Ely in 1966 and spent part of her childhood in South Africa. She lives and works in east London. She was the winner of the David Higham Prize for Fiction and joint winner of the Macmillan Silver Pen Award for Love Your Enemies, her first collection of stories (1993). Her first novel Reversed Forecast was published in 1994 and a short novel Small Holdings followed in 1995. A second collection of short stories Heading Inland, for which Nicola received an Arts Council Writers' Award, and received the 1997 John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize. Her story 'Symbiosis' was filmed and broadcast on BBC2; another story, 'Dual Balls', was commissioned for broadcast on Channel 4 and shortlisted for a BAFTA Award. Her third novel Wide Open was published in 1998, and won the English-speaking world's biggest literary award for a single work, the IMPAC Prize. In 2000 she published another short novel, Five Miles from Outer Hope. Her fifth novel, Behindlings, was published in 2002 and the following novel, Clear, was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2004. Darkmans, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2007, the 2008 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Award and won the Hawthornden Prize for 2008. Most recently, Barker's work THE YIPS has been longlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2012. She was named as one of the 20 Best Young British Novelists by Granta in 2005. Her work has been translated into over a dozen languages.