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
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
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.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital