A bold and hilarious hand grenade of a book that twists the novel into new shapes as the characters seemingly sabotage the fictional world they inhabit, I Am Sovereign sees Nicola Barker at her most joyful, provocative and riotous; it is the work of a novelist at the height of her powers.
'One of the funniest, most finely achieved comic novels, even by her own standard … I think it’s a masterpiece.' ALI SMITH
‘I think Nicola Barker is incapable of a dull page. [Her work] is unified by its spirit of adventure.’ KEVIN BARRY
Charles, a forty-year-old boutique teddy bear maker and wearer of ironic t-shirts, is trying – and failing – to sell his small, characterless house in Llandudno. His estate agent Avigail, whose name is definitely not Abigail, is trying – in vain – to rein in Charles’s most unhelpful eccentricities, especially his repeated recounting to prospective buyers of a failed burglary that took place twelve years ago.
When Wang Shu and her daughter Ying Yue view the house, Wang Shu is mysteriously struck by a falling oyster shell – the first in a series of seemingly innocuous events distort the reality of the characters’ lives and cause them to question their very existence.
As religious epiphanies bump up against declarations of love, the characters begin to sabotage the fictional world they inhabit, causing our entire understanding of the book – and of the boundaries between fiction and real life – to be radically upended.
A tour de force that twists the novel into new shapes, I Am Sovereign sees Nicola Barker at her most joyful, provocative and riotous.
'She really is a genius.’ GUARDIAN
‘Life-affirming hilarity – Evelyn Waugh on ecstasy.’ NELL ZINK
'A madly brilliant little book that asks who at any point is in control of what. I loved it.' DAILY MAIL
‘Nicola Barker’s wildness and capacity for the absurd often delight me.’ SARAH MOSS
‘What an audacious writer Nicola Barker is … In an era when plot is king, Barker has typically, joyously, dispensed with one … Barker’s pleasure in the novella feels defiant.’ EVENING STANDARD
‘I Am Sovereign is bursting with energy, compassion and humour.’ LITERARY REVIEW
‘Barker is a writer in a class of her own … A work of coruscating intelligence, of deep humanity.’ OBSERVER
‘A riotous burst of a novel that scrutinises the nature of fiction with the lightest of touches.’ MAIL ON SUNDAY
‘A bracing, brilliantly bonkers comic novel … This is freewheeling fiction that delights in the visual.’ SUNDAY TIMES
‘Barker’s writing is very, very funny, both ha ha and strange ... Fans of Ali Smith’s “Seasonal Quartet” will enjoy a similarly arch, detached view on the banality of contemporary Britain ... A gloriously audacious blend of, well, the deep and the trite.’ INDEPENDENT
“One of the funniest, most finely achieved comic novels, even by her own standard … I think it’s a masterpiece.”
“Life-affirming hilarity – Evelyn Waugh on ecstasy.”
“Nicola Barker’s wildness and capacity for the absurd often delight me.”
“A bracing, brilliantly bonkers comic novel … This is freewheeling fiction that delights in the visual.”
“Nicola Barker loves to break the conventions of fiction ... She has set herself the novelist’s ultimate challenge - to turn the dullest situation imaginable into something fascinating and lifelike – and she (mostly) pulls it off ... Barker conveys the essence of these people with such skill that you feel you have met them.”
“Nicola Barker always makes me laugh, and her new one, I Am Sovereign, is one of her funniest yet, which is saying something. Of course the best comic stuff always has a dark, dark undertow, and so it is with Ms Barker.”
“Nicola Barker is British fiction’s brightest outlier ... a madly brilliant little book ... I loved it.”
“What an audacious writer Nicola Barker is ... In an era when plot is king, Barker has typically, joyously, dispensed with one ... Barker’s pleasure in the novella feels defiant.”
“I Am Sovereign is bursting with energy, compassion and humour.”
“Nicola Barker is literary royalty ... Brave, funny and painfully timely.”
Toby Litt, Guardian
“A riotous burst of a novel that scrutinises the nature of fiction with the lightest of touches.”
Mail on Sunday
“Barker is a writer in a class of her own ... A work of coruscating intelligence, of deep humanity.”
Alex Preston, Observer
“The novel’s 200 pages detail the protagonists’ twining internal existences over the course of a farcical 20-minute house-viewing during which they feel they might each have come to experience some form of self-knowledge, or higher knowledge … There aren’t many British writers who have Barker’s sort of courage – to get started on ideas that might appear like trifles, handle them seriously, and produce works that are as close as literature gets to pure play.”
“Barker’s writing is very, very funny, both ha ha and strange ... Fans of Ali Smith’s 'Seasonal Quartet' will enjoy a similarly arch, detached view on the banality of contemporary Britain ... A gloriously audacious blend of, well, the deep and the trite.”
“Nicola Barker has repeatedly challenged convention. And she is not stopping now.”
Claire Lowdon, Sunday Times
“Ingenious ... Barker spins a series of variations on the theme of selfhood ... Barker serves up a mixture of experiment and statement, part postmodern comedy, part spiritual credo. It takes as it’s raw material the fear and panic, anxiety and suspicion, depression and despair experienced by a man who wants to sell his house, an estate agent trying to help him sell it, the child of the prospective buyer, and, via moments of authorial intrusion and a brilliant confessional finale, the novelist responsible for creating them. The book exhibits Barker’s gifts as a psychologist ... I Am Sovereign places this agonised trio within an elaborate conceptual framework ... Barker isn’t the first writer to use postmodern devices to explore questions about selfhood, but she diverges from most of her predecessors in rejecting the analogy of the self as “fiction” ... [I Am Sovereign] renders the next stage in this remarkable writer’s journey a more than usually enticing prospect.”
Leo Robson, New Statesman
“It marks a cautious pivot away from the involutions of H(A)PPY and The Cauliflower, back towards the highly distinctive take on literary realism that characterizes Barker’s earlier work.”
Keith Miller, Times Literary Supplement