Wednesday 28 November 2012


Finished November 26
Darkmans by Nicola Barker

I've had this on the shelf for a while and finally tackled it. Like all of her books that I've read, it isn't straightforward, and it took me awhile to figure out what the different fonts indicated. One font stands for thoughts, and one for speech in a foreign language. The story takes place in Ashford a modern town near the Chunnel. At the center of this story are Beede and his son Kane. Beede runs the laundry at the local hospital, but has been involved over the years in various civic activities. Kane deals in the black market for prescription drugs. The two live in the same house, with separate living spaces. They've lived largely separate lives for years, but the actions here bring them together. Beede has been helping Elen deal with some issues around the health of her husband Dory. Elen is a bit of a mysterious woman, one of those women who seem to draw men of all types and she's been drawing Beede for a while. When she meets Kane by chance, he also finds himself interested in her despite himself.
Elen and Dory also have a child, a young boy named Fleet, who lives in his own world and shows signs of high intelligence in certain areas. I couldn't help but think that he is autistic.
Dory has insisted that they move into a new suburb and their house has had numerous problems. The builder they hired has been dragging his feet on getting any real work done, and things have been getting tense. Dory also seems prone to going into trance-like states where he does things that he doesn't remember later.
Another central character is Kane's ex-girlfriend, Kelly Broad. Kelly is a girl from a disreputable family, a girl who dresses flirtatiously, but is really pretty good underneath. Kelly thinks Beede is behind the disappearance of some of Kane's supply a while back, a disappearance that she was blamed for. She is trying to clear her name, and perhaps interested in Kane still.
A young Turkish Kurd who comes to Kelly's aid is an interesting touch, He understands more English than he speaks, and is quite well-spoken when talking his own language, and has an interesting background. And an interesting phobia, salad.
Also figuring in the story is John Scogin, a court-jester from the court of Edward IV, a man we mostly see traces of, like a ghost.
All these characters, and more, interact in interesting ways and reveal their own idiosyncrasies as they do. This is a book about fathers and sons, love and jealousy, past and present, a book about the way some things just get under your skin and never let you go. The book became more and more fascinating the further I read, and at 838 pages, that made it very interesting. Barker is never a disappointment.

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