Susan Barker

Incarnations cover

A New York Times Notable Book of 2015 (Fiction and Poetry)
A Kirkus Reviews Top 10 Book of 2015 (Literary Fiction)


“Astonishing, amazing . . . It’s the small sagas of Chinese history contained in the letters, together with Barker’s vivid descriptions of today’s China, that set this book apart as a work of considerable, if unnerving, importance. . . . Beguiling, readable, intense.”  Simon Winchester, The New York Times Book Review

“Wildly ambitious . . . [Barker’s] dazzling use of language and natural storytelling gifts shine from every paragraph. As with David Mitchell, whose books can similarly hopscotch through times and places, each episode stands alone as a terrific tale in itself. Mesmerizing storytelling.”  Sarah Lyall, The New York Times

“[A] kaleidoscopically imaginative novel… Barker stitches together an unnervingly perceptive portrait of China and of the enduring influence that its past has on the present.” The New Yorker

“[A] stunning epic . . . Barker’s historical tour de force is simultaneously sweeping and precise. . . . Effortlessly blends the past with the present, dark humor with profound sadness. A deeply human masterpiece.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


“[Barker] has smartly structured this intricate tale, and its mystery pulls us forward. . . . The novel gains in power as it progresses. . . . Close to the end, I found myself stalling – prolonging suspense.” Boston Globe

“Multi-layered and masterful. Suspend your disbelief, flow along with this wonderful book.” Carol Birch, The Guardian

“The Incarnations’ reads as China’s Midnight’s Children. An utterly remarkable novel.’ Edward Wilson, The Independent

“A page-turning reincarnation fantasy . . . Lush historical detail, exhibiting Barker’s extensive research. . . . A very memorable read.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Barker’s fluid prose makes these tragic stories irresistible reading…The stories come alive via a veritable catalogue of dark and desperate details. This ambitious novel traffics in intrigue and betrayal yet never loses its hypnotic grip.” Booklist (starred review)

“British writer Susan Barker’s remarkable new novel is ambitious in scope, scholarly in depth and absolutely riveting. “ Kate Whitehead, South China Morning Post

“Perfect fodder for summer’s waning, Barker’s novel is grim and gripping, a yarn for the ages.” Interview Magazine

The Incarnations Paperback cover

“[A] perfect conclusion brings home the writer’s warning: ‘History is coming for you.'” New York Magazine

“A dazzling tapestry of epic scope . . . [An] ambitious, enthralling tale, a deft melding of past and present, myth and reality, longing and torment.” Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Engrossing. Barker’s writing is fluid, and the plotlines and characterizations found in her historical tales, while dark and sinister, are nonetheless intriguing. Misunderstandings abound throughout the novel to unravel the past that collides intensely with the present, ultimately leading to a disquieting finale.” Library Journal

“Barker makes Wang and his city as vividly real–and disturbing–as any of the other versions of China. . . . One of the novel’s many structural pleasures is watching Barker slowly reveal the connections between Wang’s seemingly simple life and the other lives the letter writer reveals.” The Columbus Dispatch

“Barker has that rare contortionistic imagination possessed only by the finest Chinese literary legends such as Wu Cheng’en and Yu Hua… China is alive and deeply soulful under Barker’s knowing pen, making me want to revisit this mystic land of much enchantment.” Da Chen, New York Times bestselling author of Colours of Mountains and Brothers.

“A brilliant, mind-expanding and wildly original novel – it took me on a journey of a thousand years and delivered me back with all my polarities reversed.”  Chris Cleave

‘‘An extraordinary novel. Erudite, intriguing and compulsively readable, THE INCARNATIONS takes the reader on an intimate and mesmerizing journey through Chinese history. Susan Barker, a born storyteller, has written one of the most remarkable novels of recent years.”  John Boyne

“A thrilling journey through a thousand years of obsession and betrayal and a vivid tapestry of the individual’s struggle against the tyranny of history, this is the most extraordinary work of imagination you’ll read all year.” Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master’s Son (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2013)