If ever there was a book calling out for a 3-6 part adaptation on BBC 2, The YIPS by Nicola Barker is it.
And this may be its biggest problem – at least as a novel, because whilst its dialogue heavy (which I like) structure accompanied by non dialogue that often has a ring of stage direction to it, is good for visualising many of the scenes, it is perhaps not what is needed in a novel, and one that is being touted by the judges as a potential Booker winner.
It is in essence a broad farce which at first seems to be all about a golfer whose lost his mojo –got the yips, but is actually a book that mixes philosophy, feminism, religion, mysticism and sport into a multi-character interweaving, interconnecting storyline. I must confess after a shaky start I did find myself drawn to the collection of misfits and eccentrics she has created, including Jen, a bullshiting barmaid, Gene, the ex-palmist cancer survivor, Valentine the agoraphobic tattoo artist. Indeed, it is interesting the it is the second book on the long list – after The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng – that is concerned with art and skin and the combination of those things in the art of tattooing as a central theme.
Trying to deliver a farce over close to 550 pages (which is not quite the monster her 2007 booker shortlisted Darkmans was) is a hard ask and a lot of it doesn’t work – or at least fails because it would need to be delivered with better comic timing, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I enjoyed it: I did laugh – a couple of times out loud – and I fell in love with a couple of the wacky characters, as I’m sure others will too when an adaptation (I really am confident there will be one) hits the small screen in the not too distant future.
Recommendation: Do not shortlist