Tuesday, 8 February 2011

John Brown's Body (Barker)

I have never read anything by A.L. Barker, although I have heard of her and for a while I have been keen to read her book "The haunt", because it is set in my beloved Cornwall. John Brown's Body was on the 1970 Booker Shortlist so I hoped that it would be rather good.

It's a clever novel, that is told through two differing viewpoints - Marise, a young and naieve girl, who is married to Jack, a travelling salesman - and Ralph, who owns the building where the couple live. Marise believes that Ralph is John Brown, a man from the neighbourhood of her childhood who was accused of, but later acquited, of the gruesome murders of a pair of sisters. Ralph starts to play along with her fantasies and also starts to act differently from his staid and comfortable character and the book develops into an investigation into the ways of escapism. In no way straightforward, this book certainly made me think hard as I read it,

It has only been published once with a modern green cover. I shall be looking forward to reading the other two A.L. Barker's on my VMC list, "Gooseboy" and "Submerged", neither of which have passed my way yet.

Anyone else read anything by her?


  1. Barker's really good, though her books vary a lot in style and tone (but not quality). Virago do a story collection, 'Submerged' (VMC 493) which is a great selection of her long short stories, and a good intro to her work.

  2. Never read anything by this author. But I like the sound of it!

  3. JRSM - I shall look out for the short story collection too and have just ordered a copy of Gooseboy!

    Willa - me neither - am quite looking forward to meeting her again.