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4.3 out of 5 stars181
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 25 January 2015
I must read the rest of the Trilogy sometime.
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on 22 October 2011
I'm afraid that Pat Barker simply fails to deliver - it just didn't work for me. Audio performance by Peter Firth was also only adequate I'm afraid. If you can't carry a Scottish accent, you're better off not attempting to ...)
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on 19 September 2007
when I first read the first few lines in this book i was thinking: do i really want to do this? but i really did not have a choice so decided to read it. it is not a book you would want to pick up and read over and over again, but that does not make it a pleasurable read. it really is i found it really informative and there is quite a lot of reference on madness and how it was viewed in the war period, something that will be quite interesting if like me you are studying english literature a-level. i think that this book is definitely a must have, and just because i started with all the bad things about the book doesn't mean that it isn't great it is. I read this book about 3 months ago and still remember in detail almost everything that happens in every chapter- and i am a very forgetful person. you will not need to read it again because it sticks the first time. hope this really helps you guys. one thing i need to add though, if you are interested you woul be better buying the whole trilogy, that way you can see how everything adds up, and it really isn't that much money to add.
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...and no one came?

This book is the first in Pat Barker's trilogy on World War I. It was nominated for, but did not win the Booker Prize. The other two books are The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road. For the latter work, she rightly was finally awarded the Booker. Barker's novel appears to be meticulously based on known historical facts, and conveys the horror of that particularly awful war more truthfully that mounds of history books. The central aspect of the plot concerns the preeminent war poet, Siegfried Sassoon, of which an excellent collection of his poems appears in Selected Poems. Sassoon was a "true believer" who readily signed up for the "good fight" in 1914, but by 1917 had become severely disillusioned, and simply decided to stop fighting. As one might image, the British power elite realized that this was a "political hot potato," since Sassoon was not only "one of them" but had achieved considerable fame through his poetry. Thus, instead of court-martialing him, they opted for the "temporary insanity" gambit, and he was committed to the Craiglockhart War Hospital, near Edinburgh. It is a classic dilemma and theme: in an insane world, are the inmates of an insane asylum the only sane ones?

Dr. William Rivers is an astute and morally sensitive psychiatrist, who sympathizes with Sassoon's position, yet has the unenviable task of trying to convince Sassoon that he should go back to the war that none of them now believe in - and he succeeds! Barker weaves numerous sub-plots into the primary Sassoon-Rivers relationship. For example, it was Robert Graves, noted author of Goodbye to All That (Penguin Modern Classics) and I, Claudius who helped "fix" the Boards in Sassoon's favor. Fellow WW I soldier Wilfred Owens is an aspiring poet, and a member at the asylum (Owens would also go back, and would not survive the war; Sassoon not only survived, but lived to a ripe old age.) There are also interactions with noted pacifists, such a Bertrand Russell.

Though the entire novel is set in England, Barker deftly brings out the horror of war via the flashbacks of some of Rivers' dysfunctional patients, many of whom have "shut down" as a method of protesting against the madness they could no longer stand. One of the more fully developed characters is Prior. He chooses to become mute... and Barker explains why this is much more common among the non-officers than the officers. There is Anderson, a physician, who broke, in part, because he was doing 10 amputations a day. And Willard, who will no longer walk, due to a non-existent spinal injury. Particularly horrifying was Barker's descriptions of River's experiences with the brutal methods of a fellow psychiatrist, Yealland, and how they apparently worked, in "curing" the patient. Barker documents her source, and it is worth a follow-up.

Barker's work is replete with incisive observations on the madness of war, and the stresses and changes it causes in normal human interactions. Consider: "I don't think it's possible to call yourself a Christian and just leave out the awkward bits." "Old men were often ambivalent about young men in uniform, and rightly so, when you considered how very ambivalent the young men felt about them." "Yes, it's true apparently, he did die instantly. His father said he had, but they don't always tell parents the truth. I've written too many letters like that myself."

Sassoon's homosexual inclinations, along with Graves', are alluded to on more than one occasion. There are numerous other topical themes, including back room abortions. And there are the women of the home front, yellow, but making good money, working in the munitions plant. Barker also depicts some memorable romance scenes between one of the munitions workers, Sarah, and Prior, when he manages time-off from the hospital. She uses some beautiful metaphors, and I'll never be able to see a "rock pool at low tide" without thinking of this book, though Barker refers to a sense capable of reveling in the pungent rather than the visual.

It's been almost a hundred years since Sassoon wrote his "Finished with the War - A Soldier's Declaration" which was read by an MP in Parliament. It all bears repeating, and Barker commences her novel with it. The last paragraph is:

"On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practiced on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize."

A trilogy that will be read in its entirety . 5-stars, plus for this volume.
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on 20 May 2002
Regeneration is the start of a brilliant and compelling trilogy. Set in the infamous Craiglockhart World War One hospital, Barker gives details on both patients and the doctor Rivers. The blend of fiction and fact serve to make it even more interesting and moving. Together the three novels give a very good overview of WW1, focussing on the people 'at home' and a selection of Craiglockhart's patients
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on 11 July 2014
just what daughter needed for studies
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on 31 October 2015
Very good quality, speedy dispatch
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Pat Barker's prose is full of poetry, and her characters are filled with life. Truly this is a wonderful work, illuminating and strong. "Read me".
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This book is hard to describe, because the knee-jerk reaction is to say it's about Siegfried Sasson receiving treatment at Craiglockhart Hospital during WW1, which is ostensibly true, but it gives the wrong impression about who the book is really about. More than Sasson or Robert Graves or Wildfred Owen, all of whom make appearances, this book is really about Rivers and the methods he uses to treat them.

It's hard even to describe it as a war novel, because unlike 'Birdsong', for example, none of the characters are at the Front. At one point in the novel do any of the characters even hear the guns of France, and even then it's Rivers and at a distance across the Channel. But the Western Front is ever-present in the minds of the soldiers Rivers is treating, and that's what this novel is really about: the effect of war on the mind and the sometimes futile, sometimes valiant ways the men try and confront and overcome their experiences.

It's a tremendously moving novel, all the more so as Rivers comes to care for and about the men receiving treatment, and feels an immense conflict between his duty as army psychiatrist to get the men fit and back to duty and his own knowledge of the horrors that await them there.
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on 25 May 2016
Perfect for the A Level course
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