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Barker, A(udrey) L(illian)

(British, 1918–2002)

Barker's novels and stories habitually strike a note of psychological unease, scepticism, and doubt, or concern the difficulties of interpretation; they are distinguished by a rare precision of language. Her collections are often organized thematically. Her debut was Innocents: Variations on a Theme (1947), in which most stories concern a child's perspective on experience or evil, and the others find adults disturbed by children. In The Joy Ride and After (1963) the same car accident is seen differently by the driver and a passenger, while another story explores the victim's loss of memory. A trilogy of her most sinister novels, including The Gooseboy (1987), was published in 1992. Barker's tone is well suited to the ghost story, where inanimate objects take revenge against the living and the uncanny enters the everyday world, sometimes humorously. Her finest are collected in Element of Doubt (1992), including ‘Romney’ in which a new tutor is forced to investigate his young pupil's conviction that he has killed his elder brother.

Ivy Compton-Burnett, M. R. James  JS

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (A-Bo)