Nicola Barker’s Darkmans (HarperCollins, Rs 495) took its rather baroque twirl into the Man Booker Prize short list this year.
A “very modern book”, as the blurb has it, this is an epic novel (one of the many ways to describe an 838-page tome!) from an audacious writer who takes a quirky look at life for a few days in Ashford.
The past creeps up on the present in the form of Darkmans, the sinister mischief-maker from the court of Edward IV. The real world swims out of focus as John Scogin, the court jester, continues to spin his mischievous web by possessing the bodies and minds of the book’s principal characters, making them act in strange, sometimes sinister, ways.
While Kane obsesses about Middle English origins of certain words, his father Beede duplicates objects and Isidore starts rolling around on the beach without warning. An idiosyncratic novel worth reading.