Nicola Barker returns with another Man Booker shortlisted novel The Yips.
Her eight previous novels include Darkmans (shortlisted for the 2007 Booker and winner of the Hawthornden), Wide Open (winner of the 2000 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award) and Clear (longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2004). The Yips is a huge and exhilarating piece of work, fuelled by Barker’s unbridled imagination which gallops full speed ahead from the first page to the last. The tale is eccentric, and strange – but extremely inventive and energetic.
We meet Stuart Ransom – after whom The Yips is titled - an all star golfer of his generation, drunkenly reeling off an interminable series of stats about the ‘women’s game’ in Korea. We are then are introduced to Valentine, an oddly endearing character existing in a topsy turvy world, ruled by a house full of cats and who also performs genital tattoos in her front room. The tale ignites as the characters worlds overlap in a series of bizarre circumstances.
There is an undisputable air of Alice in Wonderland in this text – as the reader attempts to visualise the surroundings and decipher is really going on, the premise of which Barker adheres to absolutely no boundaries. This isn’t a novel which speaks, but screams and shouts, leaving the reader tousled and befuddled when it ends. The solution? Suspend disbelief. Barker evidently has incredible fun when she writes, and she does so with the purpose of packing a punch.
From a logical point of view, the narrative is by no means straightforward. But it is incredibly animated. The reader isn’t asked to identify with the characters, and perhaps this is the key. This is a novel which is hectic and full of mayhem, but formed with subtle intention and dynamic.