By Tim Glencross
A bold and confident debut novel about politics, money, and art in contemporary Britain.
'A dazzling debut' The Times
It is 2008, late capitalism is in crisis, and the great and the good are gathered at an Islington house party. Hosting proceedings are waspish Sherard Howe, scion of a publishing dynasty and owner of a left-wing magazine, and his wife, Daphne Depree, whose feminist work The Third Sex is seen - to her increasing discomfort - as an intellectual cornerstone of the Blair era. The guests include cabinet ministers, celebrated artists and peers of the realm; but somehow it's doubtful that any number of grandees would overshadow Afua, the Howes' beautiful and supremely ambitious adopted daughter, already a rising star of the Labour Party.
Into this world arrives twenty-four-year-old Elizabeth "Buzzy" Price, an aspiring poet only too aware of her suburban background. Moral support is at hand from shy but devoted Henry, the Howes' biological son - though perhaps Buzzy is most grateful for her friend's connection to her own unrequited love, Afua's boyfriend, the worldly Marcel.
As the years pass and a coalition government takes office, Buzzy's fortunes rise and the elder Howes' lives threaten to unravel. But do the civilising possibilities of art involve enlarging Buzzy's romantic ambitions, or revealing their moral complacency? And could meek and gentle Henry, having angered his family by going to work for the political enemy, turn out to be steelier than anyone thought - as steely, even, as his formidable adopted sister?
Barbarians is a debut of extraordinary scope and confidence; a fresh, contemporary novel about love, art and politics, told with a 19th century sensibility.
Tim Glencross studied modern languages at Cambridge University. He worked as a Shadow Minister's researcher and speechwriter before qualifying as a lawyer. He lives in London.
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- Publication date:
26 Mar 2015
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A very funny, clever and keenly observed political (and social) satire — Emma Healey, Huffington Post Books of the Year
It's refreshing . . . Glencross is an astute, immaculately funny writer with a strong ear for the present moment. Elegantly witty sentences flow from his pen like wine from a bottle. He is particularly good at skewering the often gaping chasm between people's public and private selves — Claire Allfree, Metro
An engaging debut — Sunday Times
Tim Glencross has set his sights high in this debut. Replete with references to Middlemarch, Can You Forgive Her? and other all-embracing novels of Victorian society, Barbarians aims to take the temperature of the times, using a group of Oxbridge graduates clustered around Labour's Islington set as its gauge. Along the way there are references to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, namechecks for Melvyn Bragg and Ian McEwan, visits to Brixton, a Soho club and a north London luvvie party, off-the-page reports from Private Eye and the Daily Telegraph, and a walk-on part for Tony Blair . . . Far from being mere ciphers, Afua and her friends are given sufficient spark to make them live on the page . . . The satire, meanwhile, is subtle enough to be compelling, and the references glancing enough not to grate . . . An engaging and often impressive debut . . . Glencross feels like a writer to watch — Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times
Entertaining, with a rich array of snobs and halfwits — Independent
This is a clever, amusing and well written debut novel by someone who has great fun at the expense of the so-called elite classes — Daily Mail
Glencross's first novel is a lively and easy read — Observer
A dazzling debut — The Times
Hurrah for the novel as entertainment . . . A diverting examination of twentysomething Cambridge graduates finding their feet among London's political and cultural elite . . . Sincere and well put together: it's an enjoyably old-fashioned novel that grasps something real about the way we live now — Guardian
Glencross is a ripping writer, perfectly weaving his discrete storylines one into the other, creating believable ambitions and outcomes, and pacing events with aplomb. We'll definitely be looking out for his next effort — Herald
A droll survey of the past few years of British political life — Literary Review