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76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No-man's mind
Though often mentioned alongside the likes of Faulks's Birdsong and Susan Hill's Strange Meeting, Regeneration does not exactly come up to the 'regular' qualification of a war novel. Instead, what novelist Pat Barker sets out to attain is to trace the mental paralysis the war leaves in man's mind as well as exploring the courageous, though mostly inept, ways for all those...
Published on 8 Feb 2005 by Christian Spriet

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The poets have lost their personality
"Regeneration" has a solid concept at its heart: using real people and real events to fictionalise a slice of WW1 history. But does Pat Barker really pull it off?

Rivers, the eminent psychiatrist, was clinically dull as a leading man. I found it hard to believe in him or to accept that his moral outlook had changed much by the end of the story. The stars that...
Published on 3 Feb 2010 by Rusty


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76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No-man's mind, 8 Feb 2005
By 
Christian Spriet "Chacklee Chack" (Bruges, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Regeneration (Paperback)
Though often mentioned alongside the likes of Faulks's Birdsong and Susan Hill's Strange Meeting, Regeneration does not exactly come up to the 'regular' qualification of a war novel. Instead, what novelist Pat Barker sets out to attain is to trace the mental paralysis the war leaves in man's mind as well as exploring the courageous, though mostly inept, ways for all those involved, to cope.
As a psychiatrist at Craiglockhart Hospital, psychiatrist W.H. Rivers, a historically authentic character and a kind-hearted, get-at-able, even noble person, faces up to the impossible task to try and free his inmates-patients from the war demons that do not cease to haunt their minds.
In this process he gets involved in their regeneration process at a personal level as they grow able to express the horrors that have incapacitated them psychologically.
Barker follows the treatment undergone by war poet Siegfried Sassoon (aka Mad Jack) upon his arrival at Craiglockhart after throwing his brave conduct medal into the river Mersey and publishing his notorious anti-war statement in the Times.
Another riveting feature of the book is when Sassoon meets young Wilfred Owen and encourages the young poet in his writing aspirations.

In Regeneration, admittedly, the war merely serves as an undercurrent; but Barker succeeds admirably in turning it into a dramatic device to explore the complex issues she sets forth to clarify.
Being a doctor, Rivers' job is to preserve life. However, in just doing this, he ends up getting the men back on their feet again so they are ready to go back to the front (to get killed there just the same).
For Sassoon, Owen and the other soldier-patients, an important crux is the guilt complex which, given the emotional closeness between the fellow-soldiers in the trenches, almost forces the chaps to return to the front; to them it is the only way by which to avert the threat of mental destruction by guilt.
This dilemma is just what makes novels like these so worth one's while: even while physically on the safe side, the soldiers remain damned and doomed. What, indeed, are their chances of survival if and when they go back to the trenches?
A worthy testimony and a valuable read.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WW1 pyschological story, 16 Nov 2008
By 
D. Glowacki (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Regeneration (Regeneration Trilogy) (Paperback)
An interesting,introverted book,based on Dr Rivers study of some of his more famous clients.It's wonderfully written,and Barkers characters ooze,a moody,intellectual,introverted mind set.The tone of the book has a nice sepia,style to it,and the sadness of war and pointless death is always there.This is a book for people who like the physchological side of WW1 and all of it's dilemmas,rather than the actual gun fight in the trenches.Barker concentrates on understatement and introspection to bring the book,and it's characters to life.This will become a "classic" of it's genre in the fullness of time
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anthem for Great Writing, 18 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Regeneration (Paperback)
One of the most impressive books I have read in ages. A worthy Booker Prize winner. What impressed me the most was the subject matter and how it was handled. On the surface the "shrink" sessions of a First World War poet does not seem to be a far reaching let alone interesting subject for a novel. However, I was utterly engrossed by the story of the rehabilitation of not just Sassoon but all the other "inmates" of Craiglockhart as well. The anti war message is very clear and well argued from the author's point of view and in retrospect Sassoon was quite right. The sadness of the stories from the Front, the breakdowns and the attitude of the government and military are impressively recreated, as unfortunately are the methods of some other military hospitals. The appearance of Wilfred Owen should inspire readers to try his poetry, it is wonderful, honest and heartbreaking. All the waste of war, yards of mud for thousands of lives are here. Lest we forget, this is indeed an important work.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My first Barker but not my last, 27 Jun 2007
By 
SJSmith (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Regeneration (Paperback)
This is my first dip into Pat Barker's novel. I have the trilogy but I'm reading them a book at a time so I don't overload myself with the topic matter.

Fantastically written, each character comes to life throughout the novel. I found it interesting from a teacher's perspective as I have taught Sassoon, Owen and Graves so it was good to see their relationships. The characters are vivid, she has written them with such clarity and imagination. The binding character is Dr Rivers and the bok is about his interaction with the patients that are sent to him.

The book is a mix of facts and fiction and it's difficult to tell where one ends and the other starts to be honest. Her source material is wide-ranging and I'm sure the bits I thought were fact were. It discussed parts of the First Wolrd War that were different to my previous reading - such as centering around Craiglockhart. It gives the readers a chance to get to know the mental health issues surrounding the soldiers and is a book that will stay in my mind for a while.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A truly rivetting read, 29 Sep 2004
This review is from: Regeneration (Paperback)
This novel, which forms part of the 'Regeneration Trilogy' is a harrowing, yet reflective read on the Great War. As a student of Modern History the author uses a balance of fact (the meeting between Owen and Sassoon, two of the greatest poets of the War, at Craiglockart Hospital, and their encounter with Dr W Rivers) and fiction, to demonstrate the horror of the First World War.
I learnt more from this book than I did from many set texts. A truly rivetting read from cover to cover. As are the further two novels which make up the trilogy.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One versus the machine, 2 July 2007
This review is from: Regeneration (Paperback)
I disagree with the last reviewer and find it fascinating that many of the reviews focus on WWI. This book is set against the background of WWI and its portrayals of various horiffic incidents is insightful- but these incidents serve to show us the why and the how of each of the individuals in this book. It focusses on each one, each man as a person ravaged by horror seeking a hiding place from it, but unable to leave behind the stinking, dying flesh of war. Take each man out of the machine of war, and he is no longer a hero among 20 million heroes, but a man. Attitudes towards mental health and duty form the true core of this novel (as subsequent novels in the trilogy focus on sex and then, finally on the mundanity of 'action'). No character is entirely sympathetic, even Rivers, the 'father' at the heart of the novel.

Human flaws are saddening, but also maddening, and the arrogance of breeding (versus the unthinking sacrifice of the working classes) leaves you with some distaste at the actions of Sassoon and others (a man who had not done a day's work in his life until the war came along). Men in Sassoon's position were coddled back to service, while men of lesser breeding were simply shot before they could spread discontent in the ranks.

Barker does not seek to justify anything- you are left to form your own opinions, and slowly cotton on to the fact that neither Sassoon nor Rivers are the heart of this novel, but that Billy Prior, whose life we will follow in the later novels, is the everyman- not a hero, not a coward, not lovable nor particularly handsome, but nevertheless selected by Barker as our guide through the inexplicable horrors of 1914-1919.

I read this recently as part of the '1001 books to read before you die' series, and was deeply impressed by it- having read some of Barker's earlier work I had though that I would hate it. Glad to be proved very wrong!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars subtly insightful, 25 Jun 2004
This review is from: Regeneration (Paperback)
This book is not only easy to read and refreshing from many works covering WW1, it challenges our perception of the horrors of war. On the surface it is a story about the soldier poets, namely Sassoon and Owen, but it is also about so much more - relationships, class divisions and the process of regeneration.
Superbly written, this book will blow you away. A great and accessible read... highly recommended!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book I keep going back to, 29 Aug 2006
By 
Cee-Gee (Northants, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Regeneration (Paperback)
This was one of the better texts that I studied during my A levels, and one that I have read again since and really enjoyed. It looks at the treatment mental health issues relating to the war, but does so in the form of a novel, rather than a scientific text. Well worth reading.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The poets have lost their personality, 3 Feb 2010
By 
Rusty (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Regeneration (Regeneration Trilogy) (Paperback)
"Regeneration" has a solid concept at its heart: using real people and real events to fictionalise a slice of WW1 history. But does Pat Barker really pull it off?

Rivers, the eminent psychiatrist, was clinically dull as a leading man. I found it hard to believe in him or to accept that his moral outlook had changed much by the end of the story. The stars that should have shone brightly in this narrative - Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves - faded into blandness. These mild, melancholy officers were virtually interchangeable and had little character to set them apart. Meanwhile, too much focus was given to peripheral characters like Prior and Burns. Prior's wooing of a local girl was largely irrelevant and upset the book's pacing (I'm sure those local Scots were talking with a strange Yorkshire lilt, as well). Burns' discharge and subsequent depression in Suffolk led to nothing. It just reaffirmed that the war had warped his mind and we knew that from the start.

In particular, though, it was the meeting of Sassoon and Owen that disappointed me the most. Their friendship at Craiglockhart Hospital felt fake, a kind of paint-by-numbers re-enactment based on Sassoon's real-life annotations of Owen's poetry. Neither of these men seemed shaken to the very core by war, as their famous poems convey so well. Indeed, in this novel, the war barely feels real at all. Sassoon comes home from it, writes his withering "Soldier's Declaration" - and spends the rest of his time playing golf, visiting artists and dining at member's clubs. I can't help but think this complex man really hasn't been done justice.

Pat Barker seems to be more of a historian than a novelist and perhaps it shows. She's got her facts straight but scrimped on the humanity. Am I tempted by the next two books in the trilogy? Not really!
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fact and Fiction merge, but to good effect, 24 Nov 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Regeneration (Paperback)
I will not delude you, I did not pick up this book by choice. I am doing a degree in literature and Regeneration was on my reading list and I have only just recently finished reading it. Now with many English Lit books you will find that they are either exceptionally obscure or wonderfully insightful, thankfully Regeneration was the latter of the two.
The novel certainly is an interesting read although it is somewhat of a difficult read so don't approach it with a light heart as it does demand attention. Once you get past the overly dominating writing style of Pat Barker you are immerged into a blend of war documentation and fiction.
Set in a Psychological rehabilitation centre during the first World War, Regeneration is a frightening and realistic look into what the war was really like and the many lives and minds that it was able to destroy.
I would not recommend this novel to eccentrics that find their reading pleasure in spy and action novels as this is far from it. In fact you will very likely end up a pacifist at the end page.
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Regeneration (Regeneration Trilogy) by Pat Barker (Paperback - 1 May 2008)
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