I Am Sovereign: Unconventional and plotless, but sure to impress critics

Review: Nicola Barker’s novel is brilliantly constructed and wildly clever

Nicola Barker. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/Getty

Nicola Barker. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/Getty

Who reads Nicola Barker? The press release for her latest novel, I Am Sovereign, proclaims that Barker has won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and The Goldsmiths Prize, whilst she has also been thrice nominated for the Booker and even nabbed a spot on the Women’s Prize longlist. It’s a laundry list of prestigious literary awards and nominations yet, who reads Nicola Barker?

I don’t. Or at least I didn’t until I was tasked with this review. Judging from the number of ratings her books get on Goodreads, the vast majority of the reading public don’t read Barker either. What’s happening here? Barker’s journey as a novelist is mirrored rather well in the career of Ali Smith. Both started out at nearly the exact same time, both are awards magnets, and both have an equally fractious relationship with the concept of form and The Novel. Yet, you thought Autumn was sensational but you never got around to H(a)ppy.

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