Barker’s formidable literary showmanship would count for little if the novel were not tethered to a moral and emotional core ... Barker not only refuses to switch off, but spirals and giddies and churns relentlessly. The result is typically atypical, expectedly unexpected and inexplicably good. She really is a genius.
...maddening, funny, playful ... The Cauliflower reworks the contours of the historical novel into a surprisingly luminous work of art ... The Cauliflower is a brilliant and suitably playful way to ask these questions of gods and saints, not often addressed these days in the modern novel.
The novel achieves its kaleidoscopic effects primarily through a nonnarrative juxtaposition of shards and fragments of expository research about Hinduism ... In places, there’s something ebullient and exciting about this devil-may-care approach to allusion, but the looseness of the associations often comes across as sloppy and artless ... What reads as uniquely funny and occasionally ribald in [Barker's] earlier books sometimes comes across as juvenile silliness in The Cauliflower.
The novel is crammed with facts, history, research and the arcana of Hinduism — and Barker is determined to lay it out for us in all its richness. She does this with skill but the typographical riot sometimes sends us to the edge of narrative chaos ... She shows her chops as a novelist, too, by injecting psychological truth into the fantastical scenario ... This is an extremely ambitious book, playful, maddening, overlong, thought-provoking and rich. As an investigation of faith — which is what it must surely be — that’s not a bad way to go.
...a playful and provocative investigation of faith, and of how a spiritual master’s legacy is ensured ... Barker’s style defies easy labels too. She jumps about in time, and tense, and place, and point of view. She is fond of knowing asides, and of comments on her own text, and of repetition, and of the informal language of speech, and of exclamations, and of questions, without or without answers, and of lists, and of italics for emphasis, and of emoticons—smiley and sad faces ... well-worth reading for its inventiveness, its funniness, and its energy.