This chapter evaluates Barker’s first two published novels, Union Street (1982) and Blow Your House Down (1984), stories about urban, working-class communities of women. Given that her later novels have a particular interest in masculinity, and become more and more concerned with middle-class lives, it might seem perverse to relate these early books to the rest of Barker’s oeuvre in terms of a model of repetition rather than one of rejection or supercession. But ideas of return are a major thematic component of her books, most obviously in the therapeutic and historiographical aspects of her numerous renderings of the experience of the Great War. The novels are not only about repetition, they are acts of repetition in their own right. This latter attribute has two dimensions. One concerns Barker’s allusiveness, her adaptations and borrowings. The other concerns her writing’s relationship to itself, and in particular the way later books reconfigure earlier ones (as will become apparent in the next chapter’s account of what Barker has referred to as her change of sex). Not only are these intertextual relationships a significant effect in the style of Barker’s early storytelling, they also anticipate the developments of her later 1980s fiction prior to what has come to be seen as her breakthrough book, Regeneration.
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