John Brown's Body

A. L. Barker
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ISBN 9780571322022 Format Paperback
Published 29/10/2014 Length 208 pages

About Book

John Brown's Body, first published in 1969, was A. L. Barker's fourth novel and was shortlisted for the second annual Booker Prize in 1970.

Marise Tomelty is the young wife of a travelling salesman, who dislikes sex and is terrified of open spaces. Ralph Shilling, a dealer in pesticides, lives in the flat above the Tomeltys'. One day Marise's husband casually mentions that he recognises Ralph as John Brown: a man acquitted, for lack of evidence, of the gruesome double murder of two sisters. Nevertheless, Marise encourages Ralph's attentions, intoxicated by a heady mix of passion and fear.

'She is formidable, and from a bare corner of human relations gathers a rich harvest.' Adam Mars-Jones

'It would be hard to find anyone who chooses words more exactly or constructs with more precision.' Penelope Fitzgerald

'An extraordinary achievement.' A. S. Byatt

  • About A. L. Barker

    A. L. Barker (1918-2002) was a short story writer and novelist. Born in St Paul's Cray, Kent, she lived in the same milieu where London borders on Kent and Surrey, for the rest of her life. As her Oxford DNB entry says it was 'the chief setting for her work, which often seemed to partake of the quotidian mysteriousness and even abandonment of these areas.'

    Her first selection of short stories, Innocents, won the Somerset Maugham award in 1947. Of her short stories, Robert Nye has written, 'stories as carefully composed as poems, quiet and delicate and reserved perhaps, but oddly lingering in the mind.'

    Although a stranger to commercial success, she never wanted for admirers, Jane Gardam, Francis King, Auberon Waugh, Evelyn Waugh, Rebecca West, John Sutherland, Deborah Moggach, Ronald Blythe, Susan Hill, A. S. Byatt, Adam Mars-Jones, Nina Bawden and Victoria Glendinning being just some of them.

    A. L. Barker deserves to be better known. Faber Finds is proud to be reissuing her entire oeuvre, six volumes of short stories - Innocents, Novelette with Other Stories, Femina Real, Life Stories, No Words of Love and Element of Doubt - and thirteen novels - Apology for a Hero, A Case Examined, The Joy-Ride and After, Lost Upon the Roundabouts, The Middling, John Brown's Body, Source of Embarrassment, A Heavy Feather, Relative Successes, The Gooseboy, The Woman Who Talked to Herself, Zeph and The Haunt.

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