©2005 Pat Barker; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
"Unforgettable." (Sunday Telegraph)
This is a first class novel: the writing is superb and the author's empathy with her story brings a real clarity and focus to the characters.
I have read this before but it is a novel that gives more in a second reading, especially with the luxury (well, the added benefit and insight) of an excellent narration.
"Don't Miss This One!"
A beautifully written novel, the first in Barker's "Regeneration Trilogy" (the third volume won the Booker Prize). Set in a war hospital in Scotland during World War I, the story revolves around several patients and physicians, including the poet Siegfried Sassoon. After serving honorably, Sassoon wrote an anti-war statement, which he asked an MP to read in session. His friend and fellow officer Robert Graves, knowing that Sassoon would be facing a court martial, claims the statement was due to battle fatigue and has him sent to Craiglockhaven for treatment. Dr. Rivers's task is to get Sassoon to agree to return to the front. Other patients include the young poet Wilfred Owen and Billy Priot, a young man who can't eat after having been blown into the decomposing body of a German soldier. A fascinating look at the social pressure put on young men during the war, as well as the effects of the war on people and relationahips and of the treatment of the psychological scars it caused.
Pat Barker captures the devastating effects of the First World War on those in the front lines. Her vivid and insightful descriptions of the suffering of the survivors and, in this volume, doctors in a military hospital treating their psychological scars, are deeply moving. The device of including real historical figures such as Siegfried Sassoon, Dr. William Rivers and Wilfrid Owen heightens the realism. The articulate internal and external debates about the morality of fighting a disastrous war with no clearly defined ultimate goal or competent strategy makes the story oh, so relevant to contemporary readers.
"deserves the accolades"
Not only does this explore the mud and blood of WWI, it's a darn good narrative involving interesting historical figures in a non-exploitative way. It speaks to the moral dilemma of ALL war without preaching about "the old lie." By presenting its setting in period of social cultural change so well through the characters, it raises other questions still relevant today.
I downloaded the audiobook after seeing the film adaptation (Behind the Lines) - The film is very faithful to the novel. Once I started listening to the audiobook, I had to buy a paper copy to re-read passages -- If you're interested in war - and particularly the WW I poets Sassoon, Graves and Owen - this is riveting in all three versions.
I liked Firth's quiet narration style. He reads more than dramatizes. That suits the novel well, though at times you need to pay close attention to follow who is speaking - but the novel is so good that an interested listener would give it undivided attention.
"World War I from a Different Perspective"
World War I was such an interesting period of time. We were emerging from the Victorian Era, the age of more modern machines and tools of warfare were available, as was more modern thinking about psychiatry and women's rights. Barker's novels, including this one are outstanding.
"A Fascinating Project"
The intricacy of war and poetry, of exterior and interior experience, of nationalism and individuality and physical and psychological health combine in an elegant and spare novel. I listened to this concurrently with watching the (admittedly disappointing) second season of Downton Abbey and revisiting The Making of a Sonnet: a Norton Anthology. Firth is a wonderful narrator. Lots of long pauses which I find initially disconcerting, but lent the work a poised reflective quality. I admire Barker's ability to write "real" lives with such naturalism.
"If Psychology and History Are Your Interests...."
If you enjoy history combined with psychology, this is a good book. Although a little dry in parts, the characteracters bring meaning to how horrible war is and how change in a science that cannot be measured or always seens as scientific must have been difficult at the least.
The patience and feelings that the doctor also experiences himself are portrayed in his voice very clearly.
By blending fictional and real characters in this historic novel Pat Barker has created a powerful book about the traumas of World War 1. The different points of view regarding the war and various treatments for those psychologically damaged from their experiences are narrated in the third person omniscient, which works well here. Peter Firth reads this audiobook and I can't imagine anyone reading it as well as he does. I feel encouraged to read the next two books in the trilogy.
Tight, sparse prose; perfect for the material. Peter Firth delivers a perfectly under-played and subtle reading. Will probably listen again sometime.
"Less We Forget"
I heard an interview with Pat Barker on the “Writers and Company” podcast. I was intrigued about the two WWI poets featured as real life people in the historical novel. For the past six years I have been studying WWI. I took an interesting online course from Oxford University about The Poetry of WWI. After listening to the interview I went online to Audible and bought the book. I noted that this book was nominated for the Man Booker Prize but book three in the trilogy “The Ghost Road” won the 1995 Man Booker Prize.
I found the discussion by Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen as they edited and rewrote Owen’s famous poem “Anthem for Doomed Youth” absolutely fascinating. The story takes place in Craiglockhart hospital near Edinburgh. The other real people in the story were the anthropologist turned psychiatrist William Rivers who treated both men, the writer and friend of Sassoon, Robert Graves and other well known physicians who dealt with shell shock also make appearances. Barker made up the fictional characters from the case studies written by Dr. Rivers.
The book is very well written and meticulously researched. Barker has been historically true to the subjects and has been narratively scrupulous in her reinvention of these people. Barker has kept the actions of the people historically verifiable. Many books have covered the carnage of WWI but this one deals exclusively with the mental problems. It is hard to understand the horrendous causalities of the War. For example on July 1, 1916 during the battle of the Somme there were 60,000 British causalities on that one day. Could you see the public standing for that kind of loss in one day in any battles today? Peter Firth does an excellent job narrating the book.
"A great book"
This book is a real pleasure to listen to. I have also purchased part 2 and 3 because I want more. I have meanwhile purchased the printed books as well, so that I can dip into them from time to time. The narrator reads very well, although it took me a little time to get used to the style - a little vague sometimes. But overall listening to this book was a really great experience.
An amazing start to this great trilogy. Historical details are so well done and the narration is perfect.
Pat Barker, in her Regeneration trilogy, writes about W. H. R. Rivers, one of the senior doctors at Craiglochart, a hospital for 'shell-shocked' officers in 1917. Rivers was an M.D., an anthropologist, researcher, psychiatrist, who as an army officer regarded it as his duty to send men back to the Front if they were fit for duty. Yet also a caring, compassionate man, who endeared himself to his patients. And these included Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen! So a huge opportunity for a discussion of the First World War. There are the horrors of the trenches, the attitudes of civilians, the lives of the munition workers, bombing, rationing, and, throughout, the concern of Rivers for the men who pass through his hands.
He was influential enough that there is a Rivers Centre for Traumatic Stress in Scotland at this time.
"Excellent book - well read"
Although I had read this book before, it was excellent to have it 'performed'. Since it weaves historical fact into fiction it is interesting, informative and entertaining. It is well worth listening to
Pat Barker's writing is just brilliant.
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