Barker, Susan 1978-
Barker, Susan 1978-
Born 1978. Education: Manchester University, M.A.
Taught English in Nagaokakyo, Japan.
Sayonara Bar (novel), Doubleday (London, England), 2005, St. Martin's Griffin (New York, NY), 2007.
Susan Barker, who is the daughter of a Chinese-Malay mother and an English father, spent two years in Japan teaching English to school children from five to sixteen years of age in the town of Nagaokakyo. Upon her return to England, she began her novel Tsunami Bar, but following the December 26, 2003, Asian tsunami that caused so much destruction and death, the publisher asked her to change the name and delete references to the Osaka hostess lounge where much of the story takes place.
In the revision titled Sayonara Bar, Mary is an Englishwoman who works in a bar as an "economy geisha." She has an affair with the owner's son, who is connected to organized crime. Another character, Sato, is a businessman who frequents the bar and who is mourning the death of his wife. Watanabe is the cook who lives in a fantasy world in which he dreams of saving Mary from her plight.
Barker told 3:AM Magazine online interviewer Jake Purbright that Watanabe was in part "inspired by the ultra-introverted manga-obsessed boys I taught at junior high school. And my observations of staff room hierarchy and Japanese office etiquette fed into the character of Mr. Sato, a workaholic salaryman." She continued: "The drunken antics of salarymen I met when I was out drinking in bars inspired many of the whiskey-fuelled scenes at the hostess bar. And evenings spent walking about the entertainment districts of Kyoto and Osaka left me with many mental snapshots of neon-lit bars and various youth tribes, which I used in the novel—though my imagination had a tendency to warp these images and create something darker and more surreal."
Time International reviewer Donald Morrison wrote: "Sayonara Bar is a cocktail of astringent cultural observations, genres stirred and shaken, subplots served with a twist."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Guardian (London, England), January 14, 2006, Elena Seymenliyska, review of Sayonara Bar.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2006, review of Sayonara Bar, p. 1088.
Publishers Weekly, January 29, 2007, review of Sayonara Bar, p. 42.
Time International (Europe Edition), March 21, 2005, Donald Morrison, review of Sayonara Bar.
Guardian Online,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (May 7, 2007), Rachel Hore, review of Sayonara Bar.
3:AM Magazine,http://www.3ammagazine.com/ (May 7, 2007) Jake Purbright, "Jake Purbright Interviews Sayonara Bar author Susan Barker."
Times Online,http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/ (February 4, 2006), Christina Koning, review of Sayonara Bar.
Zone,http://www.zone-sf.com/ (May 7, 2007), J.C. Hartley, review of Sayonara Bar.