Notes from the Henhouse: On Marrying a Poet, Raising Children and Chickens, and Writing (Paperback)

Notes from the Henhouse: On Marrying a Poet, Raising Children and Chickens, and Writing By Elspeth Barker Cover Image

Notes from the Henhouse: On Marrying a Poet, Raising Children and Chickens, and Writing (Paperback)


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A sharp and witty collection of autobiographical essays by the late Elspeth Barker—acclaimed journalist and author of the beloved modern classic O Caledonia.

Following the publication of her acclaimed, darkly funny novel O Caledonia, Elspeth Barker’s sharp and witty essays appeared regularly in the national press. Notes from the Henhouse, a selection of the most personal of these pieces, welcomes readers into the celebrated writer’s life.

Tracing Barker’s upbringing from her Scottish roots, these essays beautifully capture her time with the poet George Barker and her profound sense of loss following his death. She writes about George’s former lover Elizabeth Smart and other figures from 1950s bohemia and 1960s counterculture. Pieces like “Thoughts in a Garden,” equal parts hilarious and moving, read like dispatches from the front lines of country living, depicting the vagaries of raising a large family and assorted pets in a damp and drafty farmhouse.

Vivid, charming, and wholly original, Notes from the Henhouse is a wonderful glimpse into the life of an extraordinary writer.
In her career as a novelist and journalist, Elspeth Barker wrote for The IndependentThe Observer (London), The Sunday Times (London), London Review of Books, and many others. Elspeth also taught Latin at what she described as a naughty girls’ school on the Norfolk coast and worked as a tutor and lecturer in creative writing at the Norwich School of Art and Design. She published her first novel, O Caledonia, at the age of fifty-one. O Caledonia was awarded the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize. Elspeth was married to the poet George Barker and she died in 2022.

Product Details ISBN: 9781668022153
ISBN-10: 166802215X
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: March 19th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English
“Shows off the late novelist’s ability to soothe, shock and find the humor in dark moments... these small, absinthey sips of Barker are a break from one’s usual mental cage.” The New York Times

“Enchanting… a witty, lyrical and moving foray into Barker’s Scottish childhood, marriage, widowhood, farm life and more. It’s a love affair with words—and life—that makes the writer seem like a treasured friend.” People

“Spellbinding... showcasing Barker's lyrical prose and frank introspection. Poignant and poetic, this enchants.” Publishers Weekly

 “Joyous, startling, funny, lush, dark and complex.” The Times (UK)

“Warm, witty, and insightful, this book reveals the rich inner world of an unassuming woman with a gift for transforming the mundane realities of her existence into narratives filled with magic and wonder... A quiet delight.” Kirkus

“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.” —Kate Kellaway, The Observer

“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.” —Lucy Scholes, Daily Telegraph