The Incarnations
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The Incarnations

3.79 (3,163 ratings on Goodreads)
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"Mesmerising storytelling". (New York Times). A New York Time Notable book of the year 2015. SHORTLISTED FOR THE KIRKUS REVIEW PRIZE 2015. "[A] kaleidoscopically imaginative novel...Barker stitches together an unnervingly perceptive portrait of China and of the enduring influence that its past has on the present". (The New Yorker). "A thrilling journey through a thousand years of obsession and betrayal, this is the most extraordinary work of imagination you'll read all year". (ADAM JOHNSON, Winner of the PULITZER Prize for Fiction 2013). "An extraordinary novel. Erudite, intriguing and compulsively readable, Susan Barker, a born story-teller, has written one of the most remarkable novels of recent years". (John Boyne). "A brilliant, mind-expanding, and wildly original novel". (Chris Cleave). "What a ferociously talented writer Susan Barker is. The Incarnations is a hallucinatory ride. Highly recommend". (Anna Hope). Beijing, 2008, the Olympics are coming, but as taxi driver Wang circles the city's congested streets, he feels barely alive. His daily grind is suddenly interrupted when he finds a letter in the sunshade of his cab. Someone is watching him. Someone who claims to be his soulmate and to have known him for over a thousand years. Other letters follow, taking Wang back in time: to a spirit-bride in the Tang Dynasty; to young slaves during the Mongol invasion; to concubines plotting to kill the emperor; to a kidnapping in the Opium War; and to Red Guards during the Cultural revolution. And with each letter, Wang feels the watcher in the shadows growing closer...show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 496 pages
  • 127 x 198 x 30mm | 239g
  • Transworld Publishers Ltd
  • Black Swan
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1784160008
  • 9781784160005
  • 85,776

About Susan Barker

Susan Barker grew up in east London. While writing The Incarnations she spent several years living in Beijing, researching imperial and modern China. She lives in London. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKBarkershow more

Review quote

"Reads as China's Midnight's Children. Utterly remarkable" The Independent "An extraordinary novel. Erudite, intriguing and compulsively readable, THE INCARNATIONS takes the reader on an intimate and mesmerizing journey through Chinese history. Susan Barker, a born story-teller, has written one of the most remarkable novels of recent years." -- JOHN BOYNE "A thrilling journey through a thousand years of obsession and betrayal and a vivid tapestry of the individual's struggle against the tyranny of history, this is the most extraordinary work of imagination you'll read all year" -- ADAM JOHNSON, WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION 2013 "A brilliant, mind-expanding and wildly original novel" -- CHRIS CLEAVE "What a ferociously talented writer Susan Barker is. The Incarnations is a hallucinatory ride. Highly recommend" -- ANNA HOPE, Author of WAKE "Remarkable - ambitious in scope, painstakingly researched and most importantly, a gripping read." Publishing Perspectives "Letters from someone who claims to have known him for 1,000 years unsettle a cabbie." The Observer "A MUST-READ - July picks" Marie-Claire Magazine "Ambitious in scope, scholarly in depth, and absolutely rivetting ...Sure to make an impact and she deserves all the praise - and most likely prize(s) - that will follow." South China Post "Light and often witty ...There is tragedy, though perhaps not where the reader expects it, but there is also hope." www.thatsmags.com China "Invigorating. To recreate convincingly a single historical period is an achievement. To recreate six is to approach virtuosity ... Deft, smart, various and warm: a very good book indeed." Sunday Business Post, Ireland "Multi-layered and masterful. Suspend your disbelief, flow along with this wonderful book." Guardian "Stunning. Moving between Wang's many pasts, all of them thrilling, gruesome, and tragic, and Wang's increasingly desperate present, Barker's historical tour de force is simultaneously sweeping and precise. Barker's psychologically nuanced characters and sharp wit turn the bleakness and the gore into something seriously moving. Effortlessly blends the past with the present, dark humour with profound sadness. A deeply human masterpiece." Kirkus "Not since Jung Chang's WILD SWANS has there been such a visceral re-telling of the old days." Open Magazine, India "Barker resembles David Mitchell in the ability to weave together past and present in a convincing, and ultimately intriguing, manner" Sydney Morning Herald "China reels with tension" LA Review "This is a beautifully structured novel, and the interspersed letters describing previous lives are engrossing and sharp. These past lives are too real to feel like mere metaphor. Cruelty, betrayal and slavery reoccur over the centuries, and are echoed in Wang's modern life. The prose is light and often witty, and the characterization is one of the book's most impressive aspects... This is an extremely satisfying and intelligent book" That's Shanghai "A wonderful piece of historical/fantasy/suspense fiction unlike anything else I've read... Constantly unpredictable and surprising" Goodreads "Barker is a phenomenal storyteller. She time-travels seamlessly from the Tang Dynasty in AD 632 to contemporary Beijing and each snippet of each incarnation, rich in convincing detail, is utterly mesmerising" Goodreads "Barker has created a set of characters who jump off the page and Wang's heartrending story is sensitively told" madabouthebooks.co.uk "Seamlessly weaving Chinese folklore, history, and literary classics, The Incarnations is a taut and gripping novel that sheds light on the cyclical nature of history and it hints that the past is never truly settled." Fantastic Fiction "Remarkable... a time-bending fantasy with an unknown (and possibly unreliable) narrator sweeping us down the rabbit hole of history" http://granitestudio.org/ "Vivid and engaging" Asia Review of Books "The Incarnations is so many stories wrapped into one astounding tale, and the end result is nothing short of a masterpiece. Susan Barker takes us on a breathtaking tour of China's chequered history, and her literary prowess is a thing of beauty." aworldchild.co.uk "The best English-language novel about China I have ever read." Shenzhen Stuff "Engaging, poetic and lyrical... Individually, the historical chapters are compelling, interesting short stories; together you have a novel I want to read with a book club and discuss, discuss, discuss" The Star Online "Balances past and present, the grand sweep of history and the intensely personal, all wrapped up in brisk and densely evocative prose. You can never quite be sure where Wang's story is going to turn next - not even after a thousand years." welovethisbook.com "A towering, sweeping ode" thatsmag.com "So alive, so visceral. Every incarnation is raw and vicious. Just amazing. For fans of David Mitchell and Murakami" Time Out Bookstore NZ "Barker is a brilliant prose stylist and this book should be read out loud. Even some of the most minor details are charged with social and historical insight... a genuine page turner that brings it all together quite unlike any other book about China published in the past decade." thenanfang.com "Page-turning. A very memorable read." Publishers Weekly "Page-turning. A very memorable read." Publishers Weekly "Engrossing. Barker's writing is fluid, and the plotlines and characterizations found in her historical tales, while dark and sinister, are nonetheless intriguing. Misunderstandings abound throughout the novel to unravel the past that collides intensely with the present, ultimately leading to a disquieting finale." Library Journal "Dazzling ... her natural storytelling gifts shine from every paragraph" NEW YORK TIMES "Brutal yet seductive, this journey through the darkest parts of the human spirit will leave readers with chills running down their spines." SHELF AWARENESS "Barker skilfully combines history, the supernatural and the everyday in a novel that suggests the apst is never really past, while providing a cracking good read." BOOKPAGE "A deeply human masterpiece." KIRKUS STARRED REVIEW "[A] kaleidoscopically imaginative novel...Barker stitches together an unnervingly perceptive portrait of China and of the enduring influence that its past has on the present." The New Yorkershow more

Review Text

"Page-turning. A very memorable read."show more
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