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About the book
  • Published: 25 July 2019
  • ISBN: 9781473571099
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 224

I Am Sovereign

A bold and hilarious hand grenade of a book that twists the novel into new shapes as the characters seemingly sabotage the fictional world they inhabit, I Am Sovereign sees Nicola Barker at her most joyful, provocative and riotous; it is the work of a novelist at the height of her powers.

Charles, a 40-year-old Welshman, a boutique teddy bear maker unwilling to part with his bears and a wearer of dodgy, ironic t-shirts, is trying – and failing – to sell his small, characterless house in Llandudno, Wales. Avigail, his estate agent, is trying – mostly in vain – to rein in Charles’s most unhelpful eccentricities during house viewings, including his repeated recounting of a burglary that took place twelve years ago. When Wang Shu and her daughter, Ying Yue, visit the house, a series of seemingly innocuous events – an oyster shell dropped on Wang’s head by a passing seagull; a cat, Morpheus, who upends the kitchen resulting in a broom falling on Wang’s toe (very bad luck in Chinese culture) – distorts the reality of the characters’ lives, causing Avigail to revaluate her beliefs – and all of the characters to question their very existence. As religious epiphanies bump up against declarations of love, examinations of subjectivity hurtle into meditations on the history of culture, the role of self-help guides in our narcissistic society and the medicinal properties of quince, Nicola Barker provides anovelistic tour de force in miniature form. But, this being a novella by Nicola Barker, nothing is quite as it seems, and when Gyasi ‘Chance’ Ebo enters the narrative, followed in quick succession by an elderly, partially-sighted burglar called Denny, our entire understanding of the book – and, indeed, of the boundaries between fiction and real life – is radically upended.

  • Pub date: 25 July 2019
  • ISBN: 9781473571099
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 224

About the Author

Nicola Barker

Nicola Barker was born in Ely in 1966 and spent part of her childhood in South Africa. She is the author of twelve novels – including Wide Open, Darkmans, The Yips and In the Approaches – and two short story collections. She has been twice longlisted and once shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, has won the IMPAC, the John Llewellyn Rhys and the Hawthornden Prizes, and was named one of Granta’s 20 Best Young British Writers in 2003. Her latest novel, H(A)PPY, won the 2017 Goldsmiths Prize and was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018.

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Praise for I Am Sovereign

“One of the funniest, most finely achieved comic novels, even by her own standard … I think it’s a masterpiece.”

Ali Smith

“Life-affirming hilarity – Evelyn Waugh on ecstasy.”

Nell Zink

“Nicola Barker’s wildness and capacity for the absurd often delight me.”

Sarah Moss

“Nicola Barker always makes me laugh, and her new one, I Am Sovereign, is one of her funniest yet, which is saying something. Of course the best comic stuff always has a dark, dark undertow, and so it is with Ms Barker.”

Kevin Barry

“Nicola Barker loves to break the conventions of fiction ... She has set herself the novelist’s ultimate challenge - to turn the dullest situation imaginable into something fascinating and lifelike – and she (mostly) pulls it off ... Barker conveys the essence of these people with such skill that you feel you have met them.”

The Times

“A bracing, brilliantly bonkers comic novel … This is freewheeling fiction that delights in the visual.”

Sunday Times

“Nicola Barker is British fiction’s brightest outlier ... a madly brilliant little book ... I loved it.”

Daily Mail

“What an audacious writer Nicola Barker is ... In an era when plot is king, Barker has typically, joyously, dispensed with one ... Barker’s pleasure in the novella feels defiant.”

Evening Standard

“Nicola Barker is literary royalty ... Brave, funny and painfully timely.”

Toby Litt, Guardian

“A riotous burst of a novel that scrutinises the nature of fiction with the lightest of touches.”

Mail on Sunday

“The novel’s 200 pages detail the protagonists’ twining internal existences over the course of a farcical 20-minute house-viewing during which they feel they might each have come to experience some form of self-knowledge, or higher knowledge … There aren’t many British writers who have Barker’s sort of courage – to get started on ideas that might appear like trifles, handle them seriously, and produce works that are as close as literature gets to pure play.”


“I Am Sovereign is bursting with energy, compassion and humour.”

Literary Review

“Barker is a writer in a class of her own ... A work of coruscating intelligence, of deep humanity.”

Alex Preston, Observer

“Barker’s writing is very, very funny, both ha ha and strange ... Fans of Ali Smith’s 'Seasonal Quartet' will enjoy a similarly arch, detached view on the banality of contemporary Britain ... A gloriously audacious blend of, well, the deep and the trite.”


“Nicola Barker has repeatedly challenged convention. And she is not stopping now.”

Claire Lowdon, Sunday Times

“Ingenious ... Barker spins a series of variations on the theme of selfhood ... Barker serves up a mixture of experiment and statement, part postmodern comedy, part spiritual credo. It takes as it’s raw material the fear and panic, anxiety and suspicion, depression and despair experienced by a man who wants to sell his house, an estate agent trying to help him sell it, the child of the prospective buyer, and, via moments of authorial intrusion and a brilliant confessional finale, the novelist responsible for creating them. The book exhibits Barker’s gifts as a psychologist ... I Am Sovereign places this agonised trio within an elaborate conceptual framework ... Barker isn’t the first writer to use postmodern devices to explore questions about selfhood, but she diverges from most of her predecessors in rejecting the analogy of the self as “fiction” ... [I Am Sovereign] renders the next stage in this remarkable writer’s journey a more than usually enticing prospect.”

Leo Robson, New Statesman

“The novel is not dead when we have writers as curious, daring and honest as Nicola Barker. Her latest is downright exquisite.”

i Newspaper

“A madly brilliant little book … I loved it.”

Daily Mail

“It marks a cautious pivot away from the involutions of H(A)PPY and The Cauliflower, back towards the highly distinctive take on literary realism that characterizes Barker’s earlier work.”

Keith Miller, Times Literary Supplement

“Gobbled all of this down all of this 209 page gem on a single long-haul flight. Set in a single 20-minute house viewing in Llandudno with a bafflingly diverse cast of characters. It shouldn’t work but I thought it was super.”

Rick O’Shea’s Best Books of 2019 in RTE.ie

“[K]nocked me sideways […] It’s so masterful and meta. The narrative style is elegant and frenetic”


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