BOOK REVIEW / Beleaguered bambina in rural bohemia: 'Come and Tell me Some Lies' - Raffaella Barker: Hamish Hamilton, 14.99 pounds

THIS first novel is an impressive example of what may be a new genre - the autobiographical account of what it is like to be the offspring of a 'great man' with a trail of children by several different women. Esther Freud and Rose Boyt, the daughters of Lucian Freud, have both written novels based on hippy childhoods in the Seventies; Raffaella, daughter of the poet George Barker, describes growing up in Norfolk through the eyes of a child who loves her parents but who, like most children, longs for conformity and a conventional existence.

Gabriella, the heroine of the novel, is the daughter of the poet Patrick Lincoln and his wife, Eleanor, who is the same age as his children from a previous marriage. They live with their five children in a chaotic rented farmhouse, with broken cars in the drive, animals on the kitchen table, drunken evenings, and a generally happy-golucky atmosphere.

The book takes the form of a series of vignettes moving backwards and forwards in time, ending with the death of the old poet, always the central figure in Gabriella's life.

Raffaella Barker writes movingly about childhood with parents who are both lovable and embarrassing, and about the selfishness of adolescence with its soaring and plunging extremes of emotion. Indeed at one stage there is what appears to be a series of set- pieces about hopes raised and then dashed in bitter disappointment: her father's poetry reading at a grand local house ruined when her mother crashes

on to a table, spilling red wine on a white carpet; a 15th birthday spoiled by an approach from a dirty old man; her first grown-up party turned sour when a 1920s silk dress is conspicuously different from the other girls' conventional party clothes.

The pleasures and discomforts of the bohemian rural life are well pinpointed, the members of a large extended family lovingly portrayed. But it is not easy for the reader to share the author's worship of the drunken father. His 'poetic' manner - 'Dear heart do not allow these bambini in here when I am in my cups' - might possibly be charming in real life, but does not quite work on the page. Gabriella's mother, Eleanor, on the other hand, is an attractive and familiar figure - the devoted and put-upon wife of the genius, hard-working and herself eccentric.

Raffaella Barker, in this highly assured beginning, has achieved the remarkable feat of observing a family from the point of view of a child at several different ages, and finally that of an adult, when the roles of parent and child are to some extent reversed. She writes beautifully, gathering intensity at the end with the deaths of first her half-sister and then her father, combining, with apparent ease, emotion and admirable precision.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate