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Wide Open (Thames Gateway #1)

3.38  ·  Rating Details ·  467 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
As winner of the highly prestigious IMPAC International Dublin Literary Award,Wide Openbeat out books by such masters as Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, and Michael Cunningham. It is truly extraordinary work of fiction, taking readers into a small English seaside town, and into the minds and hearts of its remarkable inhabitants -- a man named Ronny, weed killer by trade, who h ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 9th 2001 by Harper Perennial (first published 1998)
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Paul Bryant
Mar 24, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Nicola Barker, so she could rewrite it
Shelves: novels
Did you ever have one of your friends invite you somewhere and tell you you HAVE to meet this other friend of theirs, you'll get on like a house on fire, you'll absolutely love him/her, and then you meet this other friend of theirs, and you can't see why your friend thought you might possibly like this person, in fact this person is a FOOL and has a BAD SCREECHY LAUGH and wait a minute - WHAT DOES THAT MEAN YOUR FRIEND THINKS YOU'RE LIKE?

Well, I should like Nicola Barker, I can quite see why we
Jul 17, 2012 Clint rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
I wrote a cool review for this but the stupid fucking internet connection here is basically two pieces of shit tied together with dental floss, and it got erased. Anyway, great book.
MJ Nicholls
Having rugby-tackled Behindlings and found its descent into incoherence off-putting, I tried earlier works from Barker: Small Holdings and Reversed Forecast. The results were favorable, but it is with Wide Open that I have come to understand her particular brand of genius.

Barker is Queen of the Freaks. Her novels are contrived on a grand scale with a large cast of characters who revolve around one enigmatic weirdo, in this case the shell-obsessed Ronnie. Throughout the course of the novel we com
Kira Henehan
Apr 24, 2008 Kira Henehan rated it really liked it
I love Nicola Barker. This book definitely feels like a precursor to the later and longer DARKMANS. If the description on the back appeals to you, you may be unpleasantly surprised by what you find inside; for some reason they put really innocuous jacket copy on this very dark work (I'm speaking of the US paperback edition). I was just reading some of the other comments where reviewers wrote this book felt incomplete or flailing and so forth and while this may be the case (again, I read DARKMANS ...more
I’m speechless. This is probably the most bizarre book I’ve ever read, and yet I have this feeling if I spent enough time on it, I could find a deeper meaning. It has the makings of metaphor, but it’s like an extremely complex poem—it requires too much effort on that level.
Jayne Charles
Aug 06, 2011 Jayne Charles rated it liked it
This was an oddly compelling literary experience, repellent yet fascinating, like rifling through the neighbours’ dustbin just for the hell of it. Electric, daring prose from start to finish, and a highly original novel.

I doubt whether it did much for tourism on the Isle of Sheppey, rather giving the impression that everyone there is sad, mad, bad or quite possibly all three. The most sane character of the lot appears to be a pornographer. It wasn’t long before I desperately wanted to slap the
Jan 25, 2009 Gretchen rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Still on my Nicola Barker kick -- this book was an easier read than Darkmans but not as well crafted or bizarre. That said, it was a brilliant work and very moving. The metaphor of being 'wide open' to life's chaos and ramblings was one of the central themes and there was a bit of mystery and surprise towards the end. Again, a book about the human condition and the trouble of relating to other people. Coastal, British, the usual it seems from Barker but far from being dull or boring. A great ...more
Feb 15, 2015 Allison rated it did not like it
Shelves: stopped-reading
I really couldn't see why I would keep reading this book, when after halfway through it, I still was not enjoying it, didn't care about any of the characters, and there was no point. The only thing that I thought while reading it is that everyone in the book is crazy. So I gave up finally - cut my losses and moving on.
This book cannot be trusted. It lures you in by being ostensibly a British comedy filled with endearingly eccentric characters and funny dialogue and then, once you are completely drawn in, begins to peel back the layers and to bit by bit reveal the darkness that lies at the core of all that apparent quirkiness. But then, the novel keeps you on your toes right from the start, beginning with the way it presents a parade of apparently unrelated characters, sending the reader to hunt for clues on ...more
Jan 26, 2008 Moira rated it liked it
Shelves: just-finished
I missed something somewhere that would have made me super love this book. I take full responsibility for missing it, I think this could have really moved me if I had been paying closer attention or something. The writing style is really affecting, it holds you in a state of very delicate tension. Overall the book made me feel really weird, and the fact that I felt anything at all is saying something. But still... I didn't quite get it. I got the underlying Christ thing, but I feel pretty unsure ...more
Greg D'Avis
Nov 03, 2012 Greg D'Avis rated it really liked it
Very dark, very beautiful, often funny. Barker's a genius.
Sep 19, 2008 Corey rated it really liked it
A strange book, but in a good way.
Rob Fabra
Nov 18, 2008 Rob Fabra rated it it was amazing
amazing! couldn´t put it down! anything she writes is fantastic...
Ian  Cann
Dec 04, 2016 Ian Cann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in in the (unfashionable in British literature) contemporary Kent, on the somewhat remote/wild isle of Sheppey, this is a fine novel indeed, well drawn with a plot that draws you through the book. The accomplishment is all the more fine for making you care about a cast of characters so unlikeable that you'd root for the lions against them in the Coliseum. I'm definitely going to read the other two parts of the Thames Gateway trilogy.
Sep 06, 2016 JerryB rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-read
Just finished rereading Nicola Barker's Wide Open, and in a lot of ways, I do love this book, I love how richly populated the world she creates is, how she manages to make such a spectrum of different and distinctive characters with just a few strokes of her writer's pen. (Ronny, Jim, Lily, Sara, Connie, Luke, Nathan, Margery, Laura, Monica, Louis, ... in a 300-page book)

I even enjoyed, for a while at least, the fact that nearly every character gets to say something (in some cases, many things)
I got halfway through and decided it was just too dark and disturbing for me at this stage of my life. My younger self would have probably enjoyed it.
Jun 15, 2013 Howard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I find this book bizarre, astonishing and memorable, like the best David Lynch films. It was the first Nicola Barker book that I read, and it remains my favourite (I would rank Darkmans in second place, and the others some way below).

The two central characters, Jim/Ronny and Ronny/Jim, are both sad, damaged individuals. I have the impression that Ronny/Jim does not really exist and somehow symbolises a part of Jim/Ronny. His disappearance (I hope this doesn’t count as a spoiler) is strange and v
Jul 19, 2012 Oscar rated it it was ok
Extraña novela. Una historia desconcertante, y por momentos inquietante, sobre un grupo de personas, todos ellos parias de la sociedad, personajes excéntricos y atenazados por sus miedos personales, que andan a la búsqueda de una vía de escape: esconderse o quedarse totalmente al descubierto.

La escritora británica Nicola Barker, a la que se ha comparado con Martin Amis o Will Self, construye su novela sobre la base de los diálogos, llenos de fuerza, desvelándonos la información de la trama en pe
Jun 01, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it
This was an amazing book. The characters are vivid and strange. Told in the third person omniscient, each personality feels real but unexpected. From the start Barker leaves out just enough information, or portrays just enough odd behavior, to keep the reader spellbound. The story itself grows through what the characters are doing, seeking, and thinking, rather than the other way around. Which means that sometimes it doesn’t make sense, entirely.

For me there were perhaps too many characters—I g
Sep 07, 2007 Kristin rated it it was ok
I liked this book, but it just doesn't compare to the other book I read from Barker. Unlike the characters in "Five Miles from Outer Hope," these people are all not only strange, but unhappy. And they are not just quirky, but really, painfully strange. And, though the ending has resolution, it's not as complete. What happened to a few of the characters and why, more importantly, were certain things left unsaid and actions left undone? Why does this always happen with books? You find a favorite ...more
Oct 10, 2014 Alastair rated it really liked it
So far, so disorienting — but then, it's a Nicola Barker novel. Always there is what she tells you & what she doesn't tell you. It doesn't make sense, but you keep walking & it turns out to have made sense all along. Sometimes I notice too much artisanal duct tape holding up the contraption, & I think OH NICOLA, AGAIN? but I always back down & love her books anyway.

Her writing appeals most to me when (as in Darkmans) things are just about to fly into fantasy-land. This book is mo
Jun 06, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I don't ever know what to say about Nicola Barker's novels, or how to describe what I like so much about them. They're so immersive, and I get pulled into the world of the characters and their oddities more than with most other authors. And everything—objects, people, actions, words—all seem to matter, somehow, to carry some weight, but in a way that's never quite easy to pin down as one thing or another so there's a wonderful experience of feeling like I'm "assembling" the novel as much as read ...more
Dec 14, 2011 Daisy rated it it was ok
This book was very disappointing. Whilst reading through it chapter after chapter I was hoping there would be more going on as I got further in to the book, but there isn't. I ended up not getting to the end, but instead the last 3 chapters, because it was too boring to read. However, the character ideas were really good and different from normal books which made the book a little more interesting and made me more willing to read it. Overall it was clearly written and could have been made in to ...more
Mar 29, 2014 Velma rated it liked it
Recommends it for: readers disdainful of 'trigger warnings'
Won't be everyone's cuppa, but I liked it, albeit somewhat tepidly, like the cuppa was left out too long while I searched the cupboards for a packet of bickies to nosh. Dark & compelling with flashes of brilliance, more than its share of certifiably insane characters, and pathos out the arse; it is like an iceberg of a novel, much of the meaning hidden below the surface, or one of Luke's dot-to-dot photographs with the most important bits left unseen. I enjoyed it enough to soon tackle her ...more
Aug 15, 2012 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

My enjoyment was somewhat undercut by Private Eye's [#1320] description of Barker's Man Booker-nominated The Yips as: "her latest 500 page[sic] of plotless, intercut conversations among eccentrics and grotesques". This admittedly cruel and glib dismissal of her writing kept returning to me as I read on, desperately wishing that I could start to care. As a result I became incredibly aware of Lily's sudden burst of expostulating which transfixed me for a while as I waited for the next one.zz
Candace Davis
Barker is a truly odd little person, and this is an odd little book. It sometimes was too strange for no good reason, and Barker, as always, wraps up absolutely no loose ends with her conclusion. That being said, I loved it and highly reccomend it, if that's how you spell "reccomend", to anyone, although no one should read page 82. It's just horrible stuff that can happen to you in the jungle and will keep you awake at night. Is it real? There's no way for me to find out without looking up ...more
Jul 22, 2014 Jenine rated it liked it
I saw Darkmans recommended and then found out oh hell it's #3 and scrounged up the first two. I don't know anything much about the author or her books. I approached this one gingerly and as issues of severely disturbed mental health and then childhood abuse emerged I got a bit more tentative about it. But it grew on me and did not cause me to fling it away in disgust. I liked the ending and will try the second book. The language is clear and well thought out. I cannot relax with these characters ...more
Jun 12, 2015 Keri rated it really liked it
This is a quirky little book. When you start reading, it's like walking into the middle of a conversation; everyone else knows what is going on but you. However, the longer you stay (or the more you read) the more you start to understand the conversation. Although not everything was spelled out in the end. Some things were more eluded to. Still, I enjoyed the writing and I enjoyed the odd, flawed characters enough to continue on the the second book in the series.
Mar 05, 2015 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england
It took me two tries, a couple of years apart, to get into this but it was well worth a second go. Pay attention to the inter-relations and read it full tilt. It's meticulously crafted but breathless and if you don't keep up, you'll probably lose track of how it all fits together.

If you can, the underlying themes draw it altogether into a very coherent whole.
Mar 04, 2008 Brenda rated it liked it
i found it hard to start reading, but once i was about 1/4 through (i had to really decide to get into it), the twists and interconnectedness of the characters became very interesting and really held my attention. I also felt as though there was something i just didn't get. Might have to read it again.
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Thames Gateway (3 books)
  • Behindlings (Thames Gateway, #2)
  • Darkmans (Thames Gateway, #3)

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“I dreamed I saw you dead in a place by the water. A ravaged place. All flat and empty and wide open. And you were covered in some kind of binding. Like a mummy. Something white and reflective, from head to toe. And the light shone on you. Oh, how it shone on you! It glanced off you, and it was like a pure, bright silver. The wind was singing. It sang: you have suffered enough. You have suffered enough. Then death came and he kissed you. Lightly. Gently. Upon the lips. There is nothing beyond, he whispered, only me, only me. There is nothing beyond. Only me.” 10 likes
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