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  • Published: 18 April 2017
  • ISBN: 9780099510529
  • Imprint: Windmill Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $19.99

The Cauliflower®

From the internationally acclaimed, Man Booker-nominated author Nicola Barker.

'Extremely ambitious' Financial Times'An imaginative tour de force ... She really is a genius' Guardian'A delight' New Statesman


To the world he is Sri Ramakrishna - godly avatar, esteemed spiritual master, beloved guru. To temple owner, Rani Rashmoni, he is the Brahmin fated to defy tradition. But to Hriday, his nephew and long-time caretaker, he is just Uncle - maddening, bewildering Uncle, prone to entering trances at the most inconvenient of times, known to perform dangerous acts of self-effacement, who must be vigilantly safeguarded not only against jealous enemies but also against that most treasured yet insidious of sulphur-rich vegetables: the cauliflower.

  • Published: 18 April 2017
  • ISBN: 9780099510529
  • Imprint: Windmill Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Nicola Barker

Nicola Barker was born in Ely in 1966 and spent part of her childhood in South Africa. She is the author of twelve novels – including Wide Open, Darkmans, The Yips and In the Approaches – and two short story collections. She has been twice longlisted and once shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, has won the IMPAC, the John Llewellyn Rhys and the Hawthornden Prizes, and was named one of Granta’s 20 Best Young British Writers in 2003. Her latest novel, H(A)PPY, won the 2017 Goldsmiths Prize and was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018.

Also by Nicola Barker

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Praise for The Cauliflower®

The punk poet, or madcap magician, of a particularly dismal sort of English environment ... [The Cauliflower] does somehow cohere into a complex, satisfying whole ... A collection of free-standing scenes that spring into vivid motion when you turn the pages ... Barker’s approach is cheerfully anachronistic: the text is peppered with references to cinema and pop singers ... [A] vibrant, funny, garrulous and lovely book. It is a celebration of spirituality and faith ... Perfectly balanced between clownish irreverence and hushed respect for the numinous.

Sunday Times

What makes [The Cauliflower] distinctively Barkeresque is that she throws a literary hand grenade into the form of the historical novel as we know it ... Barker not only refuses to switch off, but spirals and giddies and churns relentlessly. The result is typically atypical, expectedly unexpected and inexplicably good. She really is a genius.

Stuart Kelly, Guardian

One of the most excitingly and exhaustively non-linear novelists around ... Such audacity comes with a style to match ... She opens up a mind-set usually incomprehensible to secular westerners ... Swifts, apparently, can’t feed on the ground, as their feet are unsuited to walking on it; instead, they live almost entirely on the wing. As such, they are an almost perfect metaphor for Barker’s dazzling, and defiantly non-pedestrian style ... This exuberantly imaginative novel about mysticism takes flight with panache.

David Robinson, Herald

[A] complex, funny book … Strange, febrile and utterly unique … A story packed with vitality, wit, sly charm and astonishing energy.

Justin Cartwright, Spectator

The novel is crammed with facts, history, research and the arcana of Hinduism — and Barker is determined to lay it out for us in all its richness ... This is an extremely ambitious book, playful, maddening, overlong, thought-provoking and rich. As an investigation of faith — which is what it must surely be — that’s not a bad way to go.

Financial Times

The result is typically atypical, expectedly unexpectedly and inexplicably good. She really is a genius

Stuart Kelly, The Guardian

Were I to go into all my feelings about The Cauliflower®, this post would become as long as the book. Read it! I’m probably going to read it again, because there are so many nuances and observations that I’m sure I missed the first time through.

Books and Feminism

The Cauliflower brims with rich delicacies of arcana and ephemera ... [Barker] has created a zany, frustrating, brilliant work that, despite flaunting its historicity, does more to prove Barker's rich talent for invention.

Francesca Wade, Telegraph

A deeply researched piece whose fascinated impetuosity and esoteric mode of address still transmit a vast quantity of information about the guru and his life . . . watching Barker’s garrulous, profound, silly and bitingly intelligent mind at play is one of the greatest and most contagious delights in modern British fiction.

Tim Matin, New Statesman

It’s another terrific novel from Nicola Barker. As an experiment in structure and form it’s fascinating, but as an exploration of the life of someone we could never hope to understand, it’s absolutely essential.


Comic and elaborate … A vivid panorama … The increasing pleasures to be found in The Cauliflower® arise not so much from espying the seams along which the novel’s texture is assembled as from the variously authoritative voices that tell this story from many competing perspectives.

Times Literary Supplement

A life story in all its mystical, magical human extremes . . . a mixture of irreverence and fascination, awe and appreciation, scepticism and wonderment, and it is so energetic that the pages fly . . . In The Cauliflower®, the most daring piece of storytelling to appear in English this year, faith is fact, imagination is knowledge.

S. Prasannajaran, Open Magazine (India)

The Cauliflower is an unconventional telling of a weird and wonderful story.

Culture Fly

Barker's writing is completely original and insightful and bursting full of spirituality. The novel is thoroughly enjoyable.

Press Association

[A] bold and fascinating work.

the skinny

A marvel of enlightened entertainment.

Sainsbury's Magazine

Bizarre but very readable; this novel is recommended.

The Book Bag

Barker’s writing is completely original and insightful.

Irish News

It worked beautifully for me.

A Life in Books

Impertinent, irreverent and very funny.


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