Thursday, September 17, 2009


by Pat Barker
I'm not a big war buff. In fact, I'm kind of an anti-war buff. I think war is evil, simple-minded, ineffective and short-sighted. So it might seem a little odd that I can't say enough good stuff about Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy (see also The Ghost Road in Booker) and The Eye in the Door.
The power in these stories (really the ongoing story of a psychiatrist and his patients, some of whom stick around for a while and some of whom are brief visitors) is that they are never actually on the front line -- being left with the impact of the front line rather than see it in all it's gory mayhem, seeing its survivors try to make it in an environment of pseudo-normalcy in Scotland or England is far more powerful than any battle scene of flying limbs and cacaphony could be.
For me, the second really amazing element of the trilogy is the development of Siegfried Sassoon as a war poet and war protester and his tutelage of Wilfred Owens. Having studied their work in university, it was interesting to me to find out of their connection in the hospital, and of Sassoon's influence on Owen's work.
Oh right, I guess that gives away that this is a historically-based trilogy. Not only were the poets actual poet soldiers of the itme, but Dr. Rivers was also (apparently) much as he's made out to be by Barker, and the cultural and historical situations are accurate. I like historical novels.

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