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Clear: A Transparent Novel

3.42  ·  Rating Details  ·  252 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
*Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2004 *A Granta Best of British Novelist 2003 *Winner of the IMPAC PRIZE for her novel Wide Open
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 6th 2004 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 2004)
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Mar 22, 2009 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't really care for David Blaine. I don't really like his kind of dopey stoner like way of talking and most of his stunts I've always thought while kind of impressive physically I've always felt were kind of just clamoring for attention. What is wrong with that though, he is an entertainer, and he is in the entertainment business, so that kind of goes with the territory--do something big and get lots of people to watch you. Can you hold this against the man? Well sure, I can and lots of peop ...more
MJ Nicholls
A novel written in three months during (and after) David Blaine’s infamous Christ-in-a-Perspex-box stunt in London. Barker’s novel is the most entertaining account of this memorable public spectacle that united Londoners in the act of throwing eggs at a man with mental health problems. Clear: A Transparent Novel is an ebullient comic novel written in such bouncy, jack-in-a-box prose, you want to crawl into those pages and live with these cast of cranky oddballs and relive 2003 all over again. (M ...more
My 2000th 'read' book catalogued on Goodreads.

2004: The Books sections of the papers are full of this. It's about David Blaine *yawn*. And it sounds both boring and gimmicky. What could be a worse combination? I wish they'd move on to something more interesting so I can forget about it and hear about stuff I might actually read.
2013: Nope, one day the author will be one of your favourite writers. Only three years later, not recognising her name, you'll find a gigantic historical-looking tome cal
Jun 21, 2009 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel takes place in the 44 days David Blaine starved himself in a suspended plastic box above the Thames. It was sort of fascinating to read a book that was almost designed to be immediately dated. Barker is not entirely successful at keeping her narrator endearing, but the story is entertaining and has all the quirk Barker is known for.
Marc Nash
Hard for me to review this. Not because I don't know my own mind, but because this book ticks a lot of my irritant quotient boxes, which are in all likelihood personal to me.

Firstly there is much to enjoy stylistically. Barker creates a good voice. She writes a male psyche so convincingly. It's witty and clever, the dialogue and inner dialogue snaps & crackles.

BUT... at heart this is an empty book. Perhaps that is its contemporary point. David Blaine the magician is suspended in a perspex b
Jim Elkins
Jul 21, 2013 Jim Elkins rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
The question this book raises for me is: what is wrong with writing that simply tries to be as sharp as it can be, recording every microsecond of thought, every slight nuance, every nearly imperceptible shift in intonation, every second guess, doubt, and revision, every shade of introspection, self-reflexivity, and self-awareness? What can go wrong with writing that tries to keep up with manic consciousness?

Reviews in the Guardian and the Observer say that it's not clear whether Barker should ha
I think this book serves to show how your opinions of a book can change over the time you read it. The first forty or so pages and it didn’t even merit a one star. I found it icky and difficult and I struggled to decode any cohesive message. By the end of the book however and this was more of a four or five star read. It’s definitely original, in many ways challenging and it’s very difficult to label or ‘box’ under any particular genre. Barker has to be the most meticulous of writers in order to ...more
Richard Moss
Jan 19, 2016 Richard Moss rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
A the centre of Nicola Barker's Clear is "Above the Below" - David Blaine's 2003 stunt/endurance test.

The American magician was suspended above the Thames in a perspex box, apparently without food, for 44 days. While attracting admiration and awe from some many more treated it with derision (the box was regularly pelted with eggs and people would taunt Blaine by eating close by).

Barker narrates her account though a Blaine-watcher - Adair Graham McKenny - who sees it initially as an opportunity t
Sep 21, 2012 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
A few weeks ago, I was feeling really crap and was looking for a novel to make it all better; a literary comfort blanket to wrap me up; a book-equivalent of Zero 7's album When it Falls. I picked up Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus in Sainsburys, which looked as though it would fit the bill. A couple of days later, things improved for me (or, rather, they became a different sort of crap...) and I began to crave something different, something unusual, something spicy, and decided to crack into ...more
D.S. Nelson
I enjoyed this book but I have to say, not as much as the Burley Cross Post Box Theft. This is one of Barker's more abstract novels, which required some perseverance on my part unlike the aforementioned.

The characters are well defined, animated, engaging and eccentric, in a way only Barker can create, however at times I felt like I was being shouted at. The characters all have strong opinions, all of which are vying for a place on the page.

There is a lot of philosophical posturing from the char
Nov 14, 2011 Glenn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nicola built a story around the subculture of "groupies" who visited the site of magician David Blaine's 2003 stunt of spending 44 days suspended in a clear box above the Thames River in London. As with other books I've read from Nicola, many of her characters are dysfunctional (quirky if I want to be diplomatic), but always interesting. Smart, philosophical writing. Nicola Barker has become a recent favorite author after reading Wide Open and Behindlings: A Novel, and now Clear, which I enjoyed ...more
Jul 27, 2012 Noora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kirja, johon tartuin Image-lehden kirja-arvostelun perusteella. Ensimmäinen puolisko meni yhdellä istumalla enkä malttanut jättää kirjaa kesken. Pakko kuitenkin oli ja sitten lukemiseen tulikin pitkä tauko. Toisen puolen kirjasta ahmaisin kerralla, mutta en siltikään osaa sanoa, mitä mieltä olen kirjasta. Olihan se hyvä, mutta jollain tavalla aika omituinen, eikä se loppuratkaisukaan ollut mikään loppuratkaisu. Huumori kirjassa oli kuitenkin hyvää, samoin suora intertekstuaalisuus mm. Kafkaan. V ...more
Aug 29, 2012 Booker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britishinvasion
Adair Graham MacKenny and all his fellow Brits try to make sense of their lives against the backdrop of London and David Blaine's 44 day fast "event". Among the topics explored, enjoyed, and despised are the American western, films, literature, religion, sex, food, philosophy, and magic itself. Adair brings his roommate, his roommate's current girlfriend, his coworker, his love/lust interest and her current husband along for the ride as they all struggle with the magic or illusion that defines l ...more
Erm... I found this hard going. After the first few pages, I thought I was going to give up. I found it hard to find a pace with so many brackets and side tracks.

However, the story as a whole, was worth the perseverance.

The author's style is snappy and upbeat, strong narrative etc with some well fleshed out characters but there were just too many times I felt lost.

Some interesting thoughts/concepts but a book that I wouldn't read again.
Loved it! All the characters are very interesting, even the real people who appear (like David Blaine, of whom I had by the way never heard before, Houdini and Dizzee Rascal). I love Nicola Barker's way of writing, it's so unique and gripping. To top it all of, this is also one of the funniest books I've ever read, it has several moments that still make laugh out loud when I think back to them, which is a rare thing.
Nov 03, 2014 Tiffany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: london
No sympathetic characters and a writing style that borders on maddening. Why do I love Nicola Barker? Well, she makes me laugh for one, and she confounds my expectations. In this book, the narrator actually calls the reader (or at least this one) out on their expectations before stomping on them. Other than that, I can't explain why I like this book.
Chris Jackson
Jun 13, 2012 Chris Jackson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really great book. It's established pretty early that the protagonist is an odd character. It defines how you will feel about this book. He's no offensive (per say), but he does internal monologue a lot (which I enjoyed).

That being said, the book isn't about a whole lot. I liked it and would suggest others read it as well.
Kira Henehan
Nov 05, 2008 Kira Henehan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a little different from the other novels of hers that I've read - same style, less twisted dark shit. She apparently wrote this in three months in the middle of writing Darkmans, which was a tour de force of a novel; this one is simpler, more straightforward, shorter, but (to my mind) totally engaging.
Derek Baldwin
Mar 13, 2012 Derek Baldwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is very entertaining, often very funny too - in particular some events on HMS Belfast. Whether David Blaine in a glass box serves as the metaphor of an era voided of all 'reality', I really can't say, but it seems Nicola barker enjoyed playing with that possibility, and the results are enjoyable too.
Candace Davis
I got about halfway through this book before giving up. Reminds me of Zadie Smith at her worst... "Autograph Man", not "White Teeth". I was hoping to learn that it's all worth it for the ending, or something, but I'm not seeing anything on the posted reviews here to make me pick up "Clear" again.
Jan 16, 2011 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another good book from Nicola Barker, but once again as with Darkmans the ending was a little dissatisfying. But as with Darkmans the characters are great, well written and engaging and she has you sucked in to the story from an early point. I would still recommend reading this.
Robert Corbett
Nov 06, 2008 Robert Corbett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant little box of a book. About David Blaine, magic or celebrity, I care little, but Clear pulled me in. And the neurotic woman who is the object of the protagonist's interest is the sort of chinese finger trap of a girl that I once found irresistible. Ms. Barker is find.
Jul 05, 2012 Meghan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is odd and pretty funny. David Blaine has come to London to do an extended magic act and the main characters love speculating on what he's doing and why. There is more to it than that, of course, and the result is pretty entertaining and bizarre. A fun read!

Apr 24, 2011 Kris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw "Blaine in a Box" when it was happening in London, and Barker makes it about 100x more interesting than it was. She's a fantastic writer, and this book is a must-read. The narrator is annoying, but don't let that put you off!
Jun 09, 2009 Grace rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wasn't sure if this should be a three or four star but have plumped for the former on the grounds that the narrator is a bit annoying. Generally I really like Nicola Barker's novels and esp her approach to plot and dialogue.
I love Nicola Barker . Would have given this a 3.5 but went with the 3 as a bit confusing and I had no real desire to find out what happened next.However as usual her prose and dialogue was excellent.
Dec 05, 2007 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun, quick read. Doesn't come across as terribly deep or emotional, though this could simply be the ironic point of it all, given the narrator's rather "clear" nature.
Quirky little story--a book I found in Cellar Stories, in Providence, on the clearance rack. Very imaginative and original, a nice breath of fresh air.
Jul 30, 2007 Genevieve rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
So disappointed after Behindlings and Wide Open but why would I be surprised? David Blaine is lame in person and even lamer as the hub of a novel.
Jun 08, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another amazing Nicola Barker book set around David Blaine's 44 day fast suspended in a clear box by the Thames at Tower Bridge in 2003
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  • The White Family
  • The Public Image
  • Dot in the Universe
  • Beauty
  • When We Were Bad
  • In the Fold
  • On the Floor
  • Reading in Bed
  • The Friday Gospels
  • Kalooki Nights
  • Great Granny Webster
  • Dorian
  • I'll Go to Bed at Noon
  • The Delighted States
  • Come to the Edge
  • The Middle Ground
  • A Short Gentleman
  • Becoming Strangers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Nicola Barker is an English writer.
Nicola Barker’s eight previous novels include Darkmans (short-listed for the 2007 Man Booker and Ondaatje prizes, and winner of the Hawthornden Prize), Wide Open (winner of the 2000 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award), and Clear (long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2
More about Nicola Barker...

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