A bold and confident debut novel about politics, money, and art in contemporary Britain.
It is 2008, late capitalism is in crisis, and the great and the good are gathered at an Islington house party. Hosting proceedings are waspish Sherard Howe, scion of a publishing dynasty and owner of a left-wing magazine, and his wife, Daphne Depree, whose feminist work The Third Sex is seen - to her increasing discomfort - as an intellectual cornerstone of the Blair era. The guests include cabinet ministers, celebrated artists and peers of the realm; but somehow it's doubtful that any number of grandees would overshadow Afua, the Howes' beautiful and supremely ambitious adopted daughter, already a rising star of the Labour Party.
Into this world arrives twenty-four-year-old Elizabeth "Buzzy" Price, an aspiring poet only too aware of her suburban background. Moral support is at hand from shy but devoted Henry, the Howes' biological son - though perhaps Buzzy is most grateful for her friend's connection to her own unrequited love, Afua's boyfriend, the worldly Marcel.
As the years pass and a coalition government takes office, Buzzy's fortunes rise and the elder Howes' lives threaten to unravel. But do the civilising possibilities of art involve enlarging Buzzy's romantic ambitions, or revealing their moral complacency? And could meek and gentle Henry, having angered his family by going to work for the political enemy, turn out to be steelier than anyone thought - as steely, even, as his formidable adopted sister?
Barbarians is a debut of extraordinary scope and confidence; a fresh, contemporary novel about love, art and politics, told with a 19th century sensibility.
A very funny, clever and keenly observed political (and social) satire - Huffington Post Books of the Year
Hurrah for the novel as entertainment . . . A diverting examination of twentysomething Cambridge graduates finding their feet among London's political and cultural elite . . . Sincere and well put together: it's an enjoyably old-fashioned novel that grasps something real about the way we live now - Guardian
Tim Glencross has set his sights high in this debut. Replete with references to Middlemarch, Can You Forgive Her? and other all-embracing novels of Victorian society...Along the way there are references to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, namechecks for Melvyn Bragg and Ian McEwan, visits to Brixton, a Soho club and a north London luvvie party...and a walk-on part for Tony Blair...The satire, meanwhile, is subtle enough to be compelling, and the references glancing enough not to grate . . . An engaging and often impressive debut . . . Glencross feels like a writer to watch - Sunday Times
Entertaining, with a rich array of snobs and halfwits - Independent
Tim Glencross was born in Kent and educated at Cambridge University. His first novel, Barbarians, was shortlisted for the Writers' Guild Best First Novel, and the Novel of the Year at the Political Book Awards. He currently lives in New York where he is an adjunct professor at NYU Stern School of Business and MFA candidate at NYU.