- BuyBurley Cross Postbox Theft by Nicola Barker
Fourth Estate, 361 pp, £18.99, April 2010, ISBN 978 0 00 735500 6
How did Nicola Barker end up choosing Burley Cross in West Yorkshire – ‘a tiny, ridiculously affluent, ludicrously puffed-up moorside village stuffed to capacity with spoilt second-home owners, Southerners, the “artistic”’ – as the setting for her new novel? After two collections of droll Angela-Carterish short stories and two brisk, borderline surreal novels, Reversed Forecast (1994) and Small Holdings (1995), came Wide Open (1998), the story of a twinned pair of damaged men, in which she loosened the prose, broadened the scope and heightened the feeling. It’s a book which protectively nurses its wounded protagonists along while snarling at the comfortable or the insufficiently harrowed reader:
Laura had imagined herself to be in love with Nathan … Truly in love. A dizzy, silly, confusing, confounding love … Love. Secret and hairy and cinnamon-flavoured. A hot sharp-shooting sherbert love. A mishy-mushy, hishy-hushy, splishy-sploshy kind of love. But the love had been unreciprocated … and left behind in its stead were only suds and offal and litter and a nasty, dirty bath ring which encircled Laura’s heart and made all her deepest, sweetest sensations of yesteryear seem like something empty and ugly and pathetic.
The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.