This is a really difficult book to describe as Nicola Barker has created a book unlike anything I think I have ever read before. Firstly ‘Darkmans’ is a massive novel and I don’t just mean in terms of size. It’s a massive novel in terms of the author’s vision and the host of characters that you have in the novel and in the town of Ashford as that’s where it’s set.
We are in the current day Ashford in Kent home of the Eurotunnel where weirdly people seem to be getting possessed by a medieval past, and in particular a very malicious clown, those of you who have a phobia of clowns will cope but might jump now and again. I did really jump twice and that very rarely happens to me in a book, but in parts this novel is genuinely creepy. Though the book has quite a collection of cast members whose lives intertwine and overlap, their do seem to be three main characters. Beede and Kane are a highly unconventional father and son, both have a crush on the same chiropodist who is the mother of another central character Fleet, a rather creepy child who is building a medieval town out of matchsticks and seems to know a lot about the past, this child is creepy.
There are a host of other characters the hilariously vile Kelly Broad (who I ended up loving) the ex-girlfriend of Kane, Elen the aforementioned Chiropodist and her husband and their dodgy builders, Gaffar a Kurdish refugee and a paralyzed Spaniel. It really is a crazy world that Barker has created and yet the characters are believable and human and you feel you know a few of them and may have passed the others in the street. Do not expect an ending that ties everything up though, mind you from the review so far would you be expecting one?
If I had read Dickens I would say this has a Dickensian feel to it, not that I am sure he would ever set his novels in Ashford. What I mean is from having seen adaptations there is a whole host of characters that have a whole host of their own interesting and never ending stories who all star in the book. Some of them have relevance and some of them don’t, but it doesn’t matter because you want to know all about them anyways. Slight grump from me would be the new cover, the old hardback one was spookier, and the type (sans serif) which can be hard to read. Other than that I can perfectly understand why this novel has caused a little stir of excitement in literary fields and was nominated for the Man Booker.