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Toby's Room Hardcover – 16 Aug 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton; First Edition edition (16 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241144574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241144572
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 227,097 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


Praise for "Toby's Room" "Barker...has pursued [World War I] through a remarkable series of novels: the much-admired "Regeneration" trilogy..."Life Class" and now "Toby's Room."... [T]hese novels go far beyond a demonstration of the powers of the historical imagination.Like most good works of fiction, they re not so much about the events they depict as about the resonance of those events, the way certain actions ripple through people s lives.... "Toby's Room" takes large risks. It s dark, painful and indelibly grotesque, yet it is also tender. It strains its own narrative control to create in the midst of an ordinary life a kind of deformed reality precisely to illustrate how everything we call ordinary is disfigured by war. And it succeeds brilliantly." John Vernon, "New York Times Book Review" "[T]he writing is lucid and often beautiful." Thom Geier, "Entertainment Weekly" "A tantalizing and moving return to wartime London." Joanna Scutts, "Washington Post" "You get a glimpse inside Toby s room in Pat Barker s poignant novel of the same name, but what you remember are three real and very different English landmarks the Slade, London s prestigious art academy; Cafe Royal, frequented by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill and Virginia Woolf; and the Queen s Hospital, opened in 1917 to serve injured British soldiers in need of facial reconstruction.... No one evokes England in all its stiff-upper-lip gritty wartime privation like Barker. She is as uncompromising as Henry Tonks, as determined to render an honest portrayal of war. She will not allow us to sweep it out of sight.... [She] sets the bar high." Ellen Kanner, "Miami Herald" "Haunting and complicated sibling love is at the heart of Pat Barker's Great War novel.... [T]he precision of Ms. Barker's writing shows her again to be one of the finest chroniclers of both the physical and psychological disfigurements exacted by the First World War." "Wall Street Journal" "Barker deftly fused fact and fiction in her hugely impressive "Regeneration Trilogy" by turning the war poetsSiegfried SassoonandWilfred Oweninto integral characters. She continues this blending in "Toby's Room."... [It]is in many ways Barker's most ambitious novel to date....As ever, the war scenes, and the accounts of the broken men who inhabit them, are, by turn, gripping and unsettling. However, in with the carnage and the trauma are those expert passages on art as something both reflective and redemptive. This is a powerful book that chronicles in various ingenious ways, and from certain unique perspectives, 'the poignancy of a young life cutshort.'" Malcolm Forbes, "San Francisco Chronicle" "A Pat Barker novel is a novel that deals in some way with the horrors of World War One, and it s a also a novel about art, but mostly it s a novel about how art attempts to depict the horrors of World War One. And this is how a Pat Barker novel attempts to depict the horrors of World War One: bluntly." Brock Clark, "Boston Globe" "[A]lthough "Toby s Room" is not billed as a prequel or sequel to "Life Class" and the reader need not be familiar with that novel in order to get to grips with this... [t]hose who do know Barker s previous work will be struck by recurrences and continuations in this novel not only of events in "Life Class," but in "Regeneration," too....[Barker's] prose remains fresh, humanely business-like, crisp and unsentimental. Images are scrupulously vivid, and the plot has real momentum." Freya Johnston, "Telegraph" (London) "A driving storyline and a clear eye, steadily facing the history of our world.... For Barker, the wounded faces of the soldier-victims are realities, and also emblems of what must never be forgotten or evaded about war, and must continue in her plain, steady, compelling voice to be turned into art." Hermione Lee, "Guardian" (London) Praise for "Life Class" Beautiful and evocative . . . A coming-of-age story that transcends the individual and gestures to the fate of a generation. "People " "Life Class" possesses organic power and narrative sweep . . . Barker conjures up the hellish terrors of war and its fallout with meticulous precision. Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times " Here, as in her best fiction, Barker unveils psychologically rich characters . . . and resists the trappings of a neat love story, reminding us once again that in art and life we remain infinitely mysterious. "San Francisco Chronicle "Praise for the Regeneration Trilogy A masterwork . . . complex and ambitious. "The" "New York Times Book Review" It has been Pat Barker s accomplishment to enlarge the scope of the contemporary English novel. "The New Yorker" A literary achievement . . . remarkable. "San Francisco Chronicle" Some of the most powerful antiwar writing in modern fiction. " The Boston Globe""

About the Author

Pat Barker was born in 1943. Her books include Another World, Border Crossing, Double Vision, and the highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy: Regeneration (1991), which was made into a film of the same name; The Eye in the Door (1993), which won the Guardian Fiction Prize; and The Ghost Road (1995), which won the Booker Prize. More recently she has published a second fiction trilogy comprising Life Class, Toby's Room, and the final novel in the series, Noonday. Pat Barker lives in Durham."

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

122 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER on 13 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pat Barker's latest novel revisits the First World War and re-introduces the reader to some of the characters from her previous book: Life Class where we first met fictional artists from the Slade School of Fine Art: Paul Tarrant, Kit Neville and Elinor Brooke and the renowned and real life, Henry Tonks, a qualified surgeon and professor of drawing at the Slade. Although not strictly a sequel to 'Life Class', in this new novel we meet again the artist Elinor who, as a pacifist, eschews everything to do with war. She and her brother, Toby, are part of a very conventional family who keep things hidden from one another and from whom secrets must be kept, and Elinor and Toby have a very particular secret that must remain hidden. When Elinor receives notification that Toby, who has gone off to war as a Medical Officer, is 'Missing, Believed Killed' she finds it very difficult to accept that he is dead and she struggles to come to terms with the fact that she will never see him again. But Toby's death was not a straightforward ending on the battlefield, there is yet more mystery and secrecy surrounding his demise and Elinor needs to find the truth before she can accept his death and begin the grieving process.

There are some surprising revelations in this story which I have no wish to spoil for prospective readers, so I shall be careful here - to help her piece together Toby's last days and hours, Elinor enlists the help of Paul Tarrant and also their friend, Kit Neville, who has been tragically and severely facially disfigured at the front and is being treated at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Pigwin on 12 April 2013
Format: Paperback
Pat Barker highlights the horrific reality of war but also, and more importantly as it is often neglected, the trauma of the mutilated and damaged soldiers who return and are patched up to the best of the ability of medical experts. However, I could not warm at all to the central character Elinor Brooke, a talented young artist at The Slade School of Art in London; she comes across as totally self-centred and completely lacking in empathy - apart from her obsessive quest to discover what happened to her brother, the eponymous Toby, who has been reported missing in combat.

This novel does get across the awful limbo in which the relatives of those soldiers missing presumed dead are trapped; sometimes waiting forever for closure.

My problem with Toby's Room is I found it really difficult to care about the characters with the possible exception of Kit Neville, who for me is far and away the most interesting and human person in the book.

It was interesting to read of the real-life character Professor Tonks, a noted surgeon and artist, who taught at the Slade School at the time. Tonks played his part in the reconstructive surgery carried out by doctors on soldiers returning from the front with hugely disfiguring facial wounds. He painted portraits of the victims' facial injuries and these portraits were, unsurprisingly, shocking. Pat Barker has interweaved real-life characters throughout other novels and it is something she does very well.

I would encourage others to read this book as it has a lot to offer but, failing to evoke in the reader, any empathy towards most of the main characters is, in my opinion, where Pat Barker falls short. Still I did like the bitter curmudgeon Kit Neville!
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By L. H. Healy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover
It is 1912, and Elinor Brooke is studying art at the Slade School of Art in London under the tutorage of Henry Tonks. There she befriends fellow art student Kit Neville, rather a difficult person, and somewhat of a ladies' man. Elinor's mother and sister are against her independence and her pursuing her studies. Toby, Elinor's brother and her closest friend, is supportive of her endeavours.

Then the story moves forward to 1917, with Britain at war, and the men away on the battlefields in France. Toby uses his medical experience to help the wounded there. News comes through to the Brooke family that Toby is missing.

Elinor is anxious to seek out the truth about her brother Toby's death during the war; 'She knew so little. What did 'Missing, Believed Killed' actually mean?' Despite writing several times to Kit in the hope of discovering more information as to how exactly Toby died, she receives no reply.

Kit Neville then returns from France. Through him the author conveys how the confusing memories and images of war can haunt the mind: 'All sorts of shadowy figures crossed the suburbs of Neville's mind, or crept out of the darkness and pressed in on him.'

Neville's face has been destroyed in the war, and Pat Barker writes with frank realism about the disfigured appearances of the men being treated for facial injuries sustained in battle. She describes what is necessary for us to comprehend the suffering of these men, and the work and techniques of Harold Gillies, the pioneering plastic surgeon at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, and she depicts the difficulty and pain endured by Neville trying to somehow come to terms with himself as he is now.
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