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The Ghost Road Hardcover – 11 Sep 1995

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First edition (11 Sept. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670854891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670854899
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.5 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,057,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Pat Barker's books include Union Street (1982), winner of the 1983 Fawcett Prize, which has been filmed as "Stanley and Iris"; Blow Your House Down (1984); Liza's England (1986), formerly The Century's Daughter; The Man Who Wasn't There (1989); Another World; Border Crossing; and the highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy, comprising Regeneration, The Eye in The Door, winner of the 1993 Guardian Fiction Prize, and The Ghost Road, winner of the 1995 Booker Prize for Fiction. Her latest novel is Life Class.

Barker's powerful early novels Union Street (Virago) and Blow Your House Down (Virago) memorable books celebrating the individuality of the lives of 'ordinary' women. After this the focus of her writing shifted slightly and her Regeneration trilogy was widely praised for its astute and unflinching portrayal of issues of violence, sexuality and class against the backdrop of World War One. The violence of the First World War also coloured the backdrop of Pat Barker's next novel, Another World, which looked at its effects on following generations and this theme is picked up again in Border Crossing.

Pat Barker was born in Thornaby-on-Tees in 1943. She was educated at the London School of Economics and has been a teacher of history and politics. She lives in Durham.

Product Description


An extraordinary tour de force. I'm convinced that the trilogy will win recognition as one of the few real masterpieces of late 20th-century British fiction (Jonathan Coe) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

1918, and Billy Prior is in France once again, a real test case for the 'shell-shock' therapies practised at Craiglockhart War Hospital where, with Wilfred Owen, he was a patient. Prior experiences a late-summer idyll, some days of perfect beauty, before the final battles in a war that has destroyed most of his generation. In London, Prior's psychologist, William Rivers, tends to his new patients, more young men whose lives and minds have been shattered. And remembers the primitive society on Eddystone Island where he studied as an anthropologist before the war. Gathering together both experiences, he sees the gulf between them narrow… Challenging and harrowing, brilliantly incisive yet always compassionate, Pat Barker's Booker Prize winning novel is magnificent listening.

Other Pat Barker titles available from HarperCollinsAudioBooks: 'Regeneration' and 'The Eye in the Door'

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ian Shine VINE VOICE on 5 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy begins with 1991's 'Regeneration', is followed by 1993's 'The Eye in the Door' and ends with 'The Ghost Road' in 1995. I read them back-to-back in 2011 and, even though I expected the trilogy to improve on the phenomenal start it made with 'Regeneration' - considering 'The Eye in the Door' won the Guardian Fiction Prize and 'The Ghost Road' won the Booker Prize while `Regeneration didn't win any prizes - I found it actually became less engaging and less focused with each book, particularly with the final book.
All three books are set during World War I. 'Regeneration' focuses on the war poet Siegfried Sassoon as he recovers from shell-shock in a war hospital in Scotland and is treated by Dr Rivers (who is the main character throughout the trilogy); 'The Eye in the Door' is based more on life in the UK during the war, looking at the issues facing homosexual men and those sheltering deserters and/or pacifists; while 'The Ghost Road' sees Billy Prior, a soldier who was in the war hospital in 'Regeneration' and involved heavily in 'The Eye in the Door', return to the war front. This final book is split between Prior's accounts of the war, Dr Rivers's work in a war hospital and Rivers's flashbacks/recollections of his early anthropological studies among a tribal culture.
The main themes binding the books are the sense of futility and hopelessness that drove soldiers to insanity; the emasculating effects of being stuck in a trench (or any place) where you are ordered to do things and have your fate taken out of your own hands.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 July 2012
Format: Paperback
I may have made a mistake by reading this book without first having read the others in what I now I understand to be a trilogy. However, I doubt if I am alone in having done this - so I will continue with the review.

The book is set in the final stages of WW I and follows the lives William Rivers - a psychiatrist - and two of his patients - the poet Wilfred Owen and Billy Prior. Interlaced with these stories are recollections from Rivers of his time as an anthropologist.

The general arc of the story is not unpredictable, with the fate of Owen being too well known to come as a surprise or a shock. What does come through is the fatalism that holds sway over many of the characters within the book - they have seen too much already not to know the truth of the war. In this way many of the things they do feel like the preparations for death - and this seems be the link to the anthropological memories of rivers. What we are witnessing in the war and on the tropical islands are the rituals of death.

The story deals with the casual barbarity of the war on a psychological rather than physical level, and is all the more troubling for that approach. This casual indifference also seems to pervade all the references made to sex within the book, with most being depicted as unequal power relationships about revenge or humiliation. I suppose my surprise at these sections could have been heightened by not reading the other books in the series, but I doubt it.

Overall, this is an interesting investigation of people who have been forced to stare into the abyss of human violence. But in the end I found the inevitability of the plot distracting.

Recommended, but with a few reservations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sam Quixote TOP 50 REVIEWER on 1 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
"The Ghost Road" is set in the closing months of WW1 and alternates between a traumatised soldier, Billy Prior, and his physician WHR Rivers. Rivers' treatment of Prior's physical and mental wounds leaves him more or less sane but determined to return to the Front while Rivers continues his work, helping physically and mentally damaged men overcome their problems.

The book's focus on trauma and it's effects has never been done so well as in this book. Barker's presentation of soldiers who have seen hell on earth never once diminishes what they've gone through or who they are afterwards, they each retain honour in their fragile states. One line towards the end sums up the mindset of a traumatised soldier: "Loos, she said. I remember standing by the bar and thinking that words didn't mean anything anymore. Patriotism honour courage vomit vomit vomit. Only the names meant anything. Mons, Loos, the Somme, Arras, Verdun, Ypres." (p.257).

Barker's characterisation of Prior and Rivers is brilliant. Each man is flawed and heroic in their own ways. Prior's bedroom antics, especially the last encounter he has at the end, might make him seem almost sociopathic but this is juxtaposed with the way he looks after the men he's in charge of, as well as his decision to return to the Front despite being given the chance to avoid it. Rivers is the kind and understanding doctor who, through flashbacks to an earlier life in the Solomon Islands, is also shown as flawed in his own ways via the journey he took to become the great man he was.

Lewis Carroll, Wilfred Owen, and Siegfried Sassoon all play minor parts and are brought to life fantastically well.
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