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Non 1001 Book Review: The Cauliflower Nicola Barker


The Guardian describes Nicola Barker’s latest novel as “unclassifiable genius.” Keep reading to see if I agreed with them.

The Cauliflower by Nicola Barker
Published in: 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★
Find it here: Cauliflower

This ARC was provided by Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: From Man Booker-shortlisted, IMPAC Award-winning author Nicola Barker comes an exuberant, multi-voiced new novel mapping the extraordinary life and legacy of a 19th-century Hindu saint

He is only four years older, but still I call him Uncle, and when I am with Uncle I have complete faith in him. I would die for Uncle. I have an indescribable attraction towards Uncle. . . . It was ever thus.

To the world, he is Sri Ramakrishna–godly avatar, esteemed spiritual master, beloved guru (who would prefer not to be called a guru), irresistible charmer. To Rani Rashmoni, she of low caste and large inheritance, he is the brahmin fated to defy tradition and preside over the temple she dares to build, six miles north of Calcutta, along the banks of the Hooghly for Ma Kali, goddess of destruction. But to Hriday, his nephew and longtime caretaker, he is just Uncle–maddening, bewildering Uncle, prone to entering ecstatic trances at the most inconvenient of times, known to sneak out to the forest at midnight to perform dangerous acts of self-effacement, who must be vigilantly safeguarded not only against jealous enemies and devotees with ulterior motives, but also against that most treasured yet insidious of sulfur-rich vegetables: the cauliflower.

Rather than puzzling the shards of history and legend together, Barker shatters the mirror again and rearranges the pieces. The result is a biographical novel viewed through a kaleidoscope. Dazzlingly inventive and brilliantly comic, irreverent and mischievous, The Cauliflower delivers us into the divine playfulness of a 21st-century literary master.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: While I loved the sound of this book, the actual reading felt somewhat flat. I normally enjoy books that play with time, but in this case I found it to be a messy jumble that wasn’t helped by the fact all the main characters were unappealing.

I did enjoy the philosophical debates about caste and the rules of Hindu worship. I also liked the descriptions of Ma Kali the Hindu goddess, the building of her temple, and the way she shows herself to her devoted followers.

I will say that the book is beautifully written and the use of language is definitely playful. The style is full of fun but serious when needed.

My favourite Quotes:

“In the beginning (if there ever was a beginning- was there ever a beginning?)…

“Uncle’s mother was Uncle’s first great love”

“If the dark rumours are to be believed, this famous guru is still a flame who draws fluttering moths to his light and then singes their wings”

“Aw. Just when everyone was starting to have themselves a little bit of fun, horrid, old God felt the need to elbow his way in and spoil it all. :(”

“We adore sugar, But we want to taste it, Not to become it!”

“The different faiths. Are nothing more than mere paths- They are not the goal”

Who would like this book? I would recommend this to fans of short stories since the book can be seen as a collection of short interlocking stories. In addition, those with an interest in Sri Ramakrishna and the Hindu religion may like this book.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Cauliflower

We want to hear from you! Does this book appeal to you and do you think you’ll read it? Why or why not?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. The style sounds interesting but I do no think the book is one for me. First, time; I have little spare consequently I restrict myself to reading memoirs by other self-published authors which I then review. Can take me many weeks or months just to read a short book. Second, though I have a general interest in life, I am not really into eastern culture. Third, due to my busy life I am often tired and from what has been said I suspect there is some requirement for concentrated spells of reading; my mind is stretched enough as it is. Nevertheless, I wish Nicola Barker every success with what does sound an unusual book.


    April 19, 2016

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