O CALEDONIA & short stories
'...This is an extraordinary novel; original, beautiful yet tough.'
Janet lies murdered at the foot of the castle stairs, oddly attired in her mother’s black lace evening dress, lamented only by her pet jackdaw. Brought up in the unrelenting chill of Calvinism and the Scottish climate, Janet turns to her risqué Aunt Lila, to literature and to nature. People, birds and beasts move in a gleeful danse macabre through the lowering landscape in a tale that is as rich and atmospheric as it is witty and mordant. The family motto – Moriens sed Invictus (Dying but Unconquered) – is a fitting epitaph for this wild, courageous girl.
Written with lyricism, poetry and remarkably assured, O Caledonia arrived to great acclaim in 1991 when it won the David Higham Prize and was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award.
The reissue of this neglected classic comes with a selection of short stories. Set either on the edge of Norfolk’s crumbling cliffs, in the hills of Tuscany or on a beach in Portugal – ‘The Dance’ is Barker’s response to Paulo Rega’s painting of that title – they are laced with the same mordant wit, tragic possibility and lightly worn erudition that distinguish
O Caledonia. Like the recent, ‘Packing for India’, with its shades of William Trevor, these tales of loss and redemption confirm that Barker’s particular genius is alive and well.