Pat Barker | Critical Review by Kathleen Jamie

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Pat Barker.
This section contains 401 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Kathleen Jamie

Critical Review by Kathleen Jamie

SOURCE: "Filling in the Blanks," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 4489, April 14-20, 1989, p. 404.

Jamie is a Scottish poet, dramatist, and critic. In the following review of The Man Who Wasn't There, she applauds Barker's ability to draw interesting characters but suggests that the novel's plot is somewhat confusing.

The man who wasn't there is Colin's father. "Shot down", says Viv, his mum; "Buggered off", thinks Colin. He noticed on the first day at school his birth certificate was shorter than everyone else's. Now that he can read he's not going to wait till he's twenty-one to be told about his father, as Viv says he must. Next time Viv goes out to serve as waitress in a nightclub, he rifles the old handbag in the wardrobe till he finds the certificate. Against the space for his father's name is a blank.

Colin is twelve, smart, cheeky, always in trouble at school. Colin fills the vacuum left by the absence of his father by creating an ongoing B-movie, a ham adventure set halfway between Boy's Own and occupied France. Colin's film stars himself, alias Garçon: a twelve-year-old parachuted into France because of his uncanny fluency with the language. He is surrounded in the film by the people who inhabit his real life, only they're French, in cafés and stations. He tries out stories of espionage, betrayal, torture and confession. When Colin's friends say "My dad says", all that Colin has to counter with is images from films. His own film is funny, sometimes unwittingly; it is a retreat as well as an exploration.

Pat Barker's talent is for people, period and dialogue; and in Colin she perfectly creates the mind of a 1950s twelve-year-old, a latch-key kid. The war years, the time of Colin's birth, were the time of his mother's life. Her current boyfriend is the married owner of the nightclub where she works. To this romance Colin puts a quick and expert end. Pat Barker's community is made up of real people, tolerant and abrasive. It is they, and their dialogue, who make this book [The Man Who Wasn't There], with their matinées and outings, séances and beans-on-toast. The plot is slightly confusing: there is an uncertainty as to the identity of "the man in black"—a character from Colin's imagination who becomes real. Is he real? Is he Colin's father? A ghost? Is he Colin's future?

(read more)

This section contains 401 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Kathleen Jamie
Follow Us on Facebook