Notes from the Henhouse

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Audiobook Downloadable / ISBN-13: 9781399612524

Price: £24.99

ON SALE: 9th November 2023

Genre: Literature & Literary Studies / Prose: Non-fiction / Literary Essays

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‘This book is heaven. Elspeth Barker writes like no one else’

‘Deserves to be permanently on the bedside table – to cheer, reassure and inspire’

‘Gothic, poetic and exuberantly funny. What a pleasure it was to read’

‘Joyous, startling, funny, lush, dark and complex’


In Notes from the Henhouse, you will find:

A Gothic castle, a draughty Norfolk farmhouse and a malevolent Aga

A pet pig, Portia with a penchant for drama, an obsession with geraniums and an addiction to wine (the Bulgarian vintage)

George Barker, poet and beloved husband, warbling cowboy songs into his glass and declaiming Hopkins and Houseman in The Drinking Room

Five entrancing baby cherubimos, rolling and bouncing about in a big brass bed, before growing up at breakneck speed

The ecstasy of writing, the dither of procrastination, and the endless adventures to be had in the wild realms of the imagination

The outrage of death, the loneliness of widowhood, and then the surprising joys of dereliction: of moving very slowly round the garden in a shapeless coat, planting drifts of narcissus bulbs for latter springs.

This collection of autobiographical essays from the inimitable Elspeth Barker, author of the beloved modern classic O Caledonia, is a delightful portrait of a riotous, rapturous, remarkable life.


This book is heaven. Elspeth Barker writes like no one else
Olivia Laing, author of CRUDO
Elspeth Barker is a writer whose work is so delightful there's almost no point in reviewing it. Why not just fill the page with quotations? . . . Those who have read Barker's only novel know the sweet bitterness and wild glitter of her writing . . . Enchanting
Barker's prose is poetic but not inflated, visceral but smooth . . . Notes from the Henhouse is a vibrant, jubilant testament to both her life and work
Elspeth Barker is magnificent, the most underrated British writer of the last century. I loved Notes from the Henhouse so much. Laugh-out-loud funny, sad and beautiful, these essays are a revelation, full of love and joy and life lessons (never go for a man who will intentionally step on a frog and be pragmatic about hens). I will read them again and again
Camilla Grudova, author of CHILDREN OF PARADISE
Elspeth Barker could write about anything and have you longing for more . . . Notes from the Henhouse is a book for which one feels incredulous gratitude. How come, you think, she is not better known? The book deserves to be permanently on the bedside table - to cheer, reassure and inspire . . . [Barker's] essays are sympathetic little masterpieces to which she brings storytelling capacity and an intensity that absorbs as the best fiction does
Kate Kellaway, THE OBSERVER
A masterclass in the art of the personal essay. These pieces - about pigs, and loss, and the delicate balance between art and life - are vital, and funny, and true. Though memoir, they have a powerful ambiguity, like the very best short stories
Charlie Gilmour, author of FEATHERHOOD
Her writing is glorious and this book of essays is a wonder. Every essay is a masterpiece in miniature . . . Barker is a gift and so is this book. Buy one for yourself and one for those you love. It is that sort of book
Natasha Poliszczuk, BOOK(ISH)
A collection of utterly captivating essays about love, children, pigs, dogs, jealousy, grief, ponds, bereavement, widowhood . . . I would also recommend her only novel, O Caledonia, as an optimal curl-up read. I hope I'm not making her sound cosy - she was much too sharp and original for that
India Knight, THE TIMES
Brings joy to the bleak midwinter
What a pleasure it was to read Notes from the Henhouse. An original voice, gothic, poetic and exuberantly funny
Esther Freud, author of HIDEOUS KINKY
Joyous, startling, funny, lush, dark and complex. The perfect stocking filler, I'd say, for the clever women in your life.
Melanie Reid, THE TIMES
Elspeth Barker speaks her mind fearlessly, and her mind is scintillating. Witty, caustic, erudite - as fiercely funny in writing about heartbreak and mortality as she is about drunken dinner parties and delinquent dogs
Lucy Hughes-Hallett