In the Approaches
Nicola Barker, Read by Stephen Perring and Antonia Beamish

Book cover image

Narrated By: Stephen Perring, Antonia Beamish

Duration: 15 hours and 45 minutes

What to expect

Nicola Barker’s readers are primed to expect surprises, but her tenth novel delivers mind-meld on a metaphysical scale. From quiet beginnings in the picturesque English seaside enclave of Pett Level, ‘In The Approaches’ ultimately constructs its own anarchic city-state on the previously undiscovered common ground between G.K. Chesterton and Philip K. Dick. On the one hand, this is an old-fashioned romantic comedy of fused buttocks, shrunken heads and Irish-Aboriginal saints; on the other it’s Barker’s wildest and most haunting book since 2007’s Booker Prize-shortlisted ‘Darkmans’.

Following previous celebrations of the enduring allure of the posted letter (’Burley Cross Postbox Theft’) and the pre-lapsarian innocence of pre-Twitter celebrity (Booker-longlisted ‘The Yips’), this concluding instalment of Barker’s subliminally affiliated ‘digital trilogy’ imagines a basis for the internet in Catholic theology. Set in a 1984 which seems almost as distantly located in the past as Orwell’s was in the future, ‘In the Approaches’ offers a captivating glimpse of something more shocking than any dystopia – the possibility of faith.


Modern & contemporary fiction, Crime & mystery fiction

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‘Its take on things of the spirit, somehow both rollicking and profoundly calm, comes complete with a vision of benign energy that opened on me after the book was closed and continues to resonate months afterwards. How did she do it? This masterful, sleight-of-hand, open-souled and anti-elitist generosity, unprecedented in the English novel right now, is like an injection of vitality.’ Ali Smith, Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year

‘A wonderful twisted comedy’ Observer

‘Full of invention and experiment, Barker’s comic energy is irresistible’ The Sunday Telegraph

‘I have never read anything like it … Barker is some kind of genius … The book is textured, playfully philosophical and increasingly moving. I read the last 150 pages at a sitting with my heart and mind stirred’ Observer

‘Nicola Barker is an author who transforms the mundane into the magisterial … Sounds a bit heavy going? Fear not, it’s also a delightful romantic comedy … More than the mere sum of its parts, it’s a novel that propels you helplessly forward into the light’ Independent

‘This novel – which is, among other things, an account of how two irritable, damaged and eccentric adults fall in love – is a riot’ Prospect

‘Exhilarating… she is an author whose comic energy is infectious’ Daily Mail

‘Mind-spinning’ Independent on Sunday

‘Hardy rebelled against Englishness, Barker exults in it’ Guardian

‘Lie back and allow yourself to be carried away by Barker’s bouts of brilliant writing and her extraordinary flights of imagination’ The Times

‘The antic virtuosity of Barker's prose style … carries a kind of visionary intensity of its own … The sheer blethering strangeness of life thickens into a kind of metaphysical dimension’ Literary Review

‘The banshees Barker summons up in this delightful novel cast a magic spell over her readers’ Tatler