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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle, surprising
Double Vision by Pat Barker is a novel that defies description. Within its pages there is war, crime, murder, rape, love, hate, sex, artistry, creativity, duplicity, anger, tenderness, inspiration: a dictionary might have enough words to list its subtleties. What it has aplenty is feeling and emotion, an ability to convey its characters' innermost thoughts in an almost...
Published on 2 May 2008 by Philip Spires

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lazy stuff from such a famous author
I enjoyed the first three quarters immensely, and then it fell to pieces. Not the standard expected. It then began to read more like a first novel. The credits of her research indicated that she had put alot of academic research into this project. Where was it? Perhaps the computer corrupted and she lost large chunks of worthwhile prose.
We started off with Kate...
Published on 16 Jan 2006


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle, surprising, 2 May 2008
This review is from: Double Vision (Paperback)
Double Vision by Pat Barker is a novel that defies description. Within its pages there is war, crime, murder, rape, love, hate, sex, artistry, creativity, duplicity, anger, tenderness, inspiration: a dictionary might have enough words to list its subtleties. What it has aplenty is feeling and emotion, an ability to convey its characters' innermost thoughts in an almost tactile manner, as if sculpting them for a hand to explore their surface. At times, Pat Barker's characters surprise even themselves.

At the heart of the book is a series of relationships between four individuals - Justine, Ben, Kate and Stephen. The two men used to work together as a team. They have covered wars and conflict throughout the world. Stephen was the writer, Ben the photographer, who would always insist on getting that one last shot, the one that the eyeless onlooker would miss, the one whose poetry would convey the true horror, the one whose horror, perhaps, might stir conscience. But one day, an Afghanistan, he pursued his perfectionist brief one shot too far and, over-exposed, another's eagle eye picked him out.

The loss felt by Stephen will never be adequately described, especially by himself. His partner's death puts him in limbo and he retires to write. Ben's sculptor wife, Kate, is left both numb and destroyed by her loss, a loss which becomes everything and nothing. A commission to create a giant Christ for a prime site in a churchyard is both pressing and unexpectedly therapeutic. She wants him naked. He must be clad. But then an accident damages her arms and she must seek help from a gardener, Peter, who is clearly much more than a pruner of roses. Exactly what Peter might be adds a sense of tangible mystery to parts of the book, but these serve only to highlight the fact that he is perhaps the only one of the characters with a recorded and therefore accessible past.

Justine is the vicar's daughter. At nineteen she was ready to go to university, but illness disrupted her plans. Being ditched by a boyfriend did not help. And so academe was deferred by an enforced gap year. She `does' for Stephen's brother and his wife, specialising in caring for a difficult, demanding child. When Stephen lodges with the family, but in a separate dwelling a hundred yards from the house, he and Justine meet. He is old enough to be her father. So what? Their relationship develops through the book, their frequent sexual encounters both rich and surprising. Pat Barker's ability to tease out emotional reaction, to crystallise it but at the same time to keep it fluid makes the story of Stephen and Justine exciting, exhilarating, contradictory, impossible and accepted in one. Whatever people's ages, whatever their motives, whatever the consequences, either real or imagined, people still need love, can sense its promise, can invite it, even when they know it could hurt, humiliate, destroy.

Double Vision is thus a complex story of how a group of friends and acquaintances interact with history, reality, their hopes and fears in a small community in the north-east of England. There is a strong sense of place, a keen eye for detail in a rural landscape that is at least partly hostile. Not that other landscapes are not hostile. Memories of war and its consequences haunt some of the characters. Failed relationships taunt others. Unrealised dreams snag away at the fraying edges of what might have been. Death turns lives upside down, lives that go on to new ecstasies of joy, creativity or even plunder.

At the end of the book you know these people intimately and intuitively. But your knowledge and understanding of people is like a photograph. It is valid only for the instant in which it was taken. As memory, it solidifies an ever changing reality into an illusion of permanence, like a sculpture captures a moment of movement, a moment that never happened. Life goes on. This is a beautiful book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lazy stuff from such a famous author, 16 Jan 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: Double Vision (Paperback)
I enjoyed the first three quarters immensely, and then it fell to pieces. Not the standard expected. It then began to read more like a first novel. The credits of her research indicated that she had put alot of academic research into this project. Where was it? Perhaps the computer corrupted and she lost large chunks of worthwhile prose.
We started off with Kate and developed her as a meaningful character, but then she seemed to get lost. Whose book was it? Stephen's, I suppose, but he was very thinly drawn. The character balance was very choppy. Peter and the statue business was never fully explained. I think, reading between the lines, that Pat Barker got fed up with this novel and ditched it, rather than putting in the work she intended. Very poor stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking Vision, 30 Mar 2009
This review is from: Double Vision (Paperback)
Pat Barker is a fine novelist but this is not one of her best. 'Double Vision' is a curiously unsatisfying read, leaving you rather perplexed at the end almost as if, as other reviewers have suggested, that Barker lost interest or changed her mind even.
The is book is largely told through the eyes of Stephen Sharkey, a war reporter who has semi-retired to live near his brother to write a book about how wars are reported. He uses the photographs of a close friend, Ben, whose widow, Kate, lives near conveniently by.
The countryside around has been ravaged by foot and mouth reminding Stephen of the many horrors he has left behind. There are some thoughtful sections on how photography distorts our view of events, even lies. However, this is a muddle of a book: characters are shallow and inconsistent and too many puzzles are left unresolved particularly with regard to the character of Peter.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not what you expected, so much the better, 18 Dec 2006
By 
K. W. van Kooten (Utrecht, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Double Vision (Paperback)
Although I can see what other reviewers mean, I don't agree with their ratings and comments. One of the many good things of this book is the open ending. There is a threatening atmosphere built up, and things turn out very differently than you might have expected. After the book's ending many things might happen, perhaps even things you feared would happen in the course of the book. Yes, life goes on. People change and will change, and some of those people are in this book, with scars, open wounds, strange ways of looking for healing of those - known or only hinted at - wounds. There is a Stephen, a Peter, a Robert, an Alec in me (being a man), and even a Kate, Justine or Angela. This is the best novel I read for months, as good as other Pat Barker books, and I hope I will be able to find books by Pat Barker I haven't read yet.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Strangely unfulfilling, 23 Mar 2005
This review is from: Double Vision (Paperback)
I must agree with the other review on this book. Barker's characters were interesting to begin with, and I read on quickly in hope of finding out how she was going to bring such a disparate group of people together. Sadly, the conclusion was both confusing and disappointing, and when I closed the book I just felt a bit blank and dissatisfied. However, there are certainly moments of good writing in the novel and some interesting observations. Just a shame, as the other reader agrees, that she didn't truly plumb the depths of the small world she created. My impression was that it could have been a big, meaty novel and ended up being something much less than that. Still, it did win the booker prize, and I did read it in 2 days (on the bus and in the evenings) - so there is something to be said for its readability.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Horror of War, 4 Sep 2011
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Double Vision (Paperback)
A wonderful story about the horror of war, the healing nature of art, and the unexpected nature of love. Stephen Sharkey, a war correspondent, has witnessed the horrors of war-torn Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and various other hotspots, and seen his friend Ben, a war photographer, killed in Afghanistan. With his marriage about to end, Stephen moves to Northumberland to write a book about his experiences as a journalist, and to be near his brother Robert, Robert's wife Beth and their son Adam, who suffers from Aspergers. Close by lives Ben's widow Kate, a sculptress, who is finding relief from her mourning in working on a massive sculpture of the risen Christ for the cathedral. With Kate, Stephen discusses his experiences of war and her work, and finds consolation in the work of Goya, a painter not afraid to depict the horrors of war. Stephen and Kate do not, however, become lovers - instead, Stephen begins a rather suprising affair with Justine, the vicar's daughter, who is caring for Adam before going to Cambridge to read Medicine. Their developing relationship is rather overshadowed by the presence of Justine's ex-boyfriend Peter who is working as Kate's assistant on her sculpture, but who really wants to be a writer, and turns out sinister short stories about prisoners and pyschopaths (it later turns out that Peter himself is an ex-prisoner); both Stephen and Kate are apprehensive about Peter and the potential he has for violence. However, when violence does strike, it comes from somewhere totally unexpected, and leads to a surprisingly optimistic conclusion, particularly for Stephen and Justine.

I loved this book: for its wonderfully original, complex and believable characters, for the questions it asks about art's power to heal human grief and about how one survives war, for Barker's beautiful descriptions of landscape and for its gripping story. There were many wonderful little details, such as the description of Stephen managing to bond with his nephew Adam over Adam's love of birds of prey. And ultimately, despite its descriptions of the grimmest elements of war, and despite the threat of violence that stalks the book, it's a curiously hopeful novel, ending with a sense of redemption, and the potential for good in humanity. Totally recommended!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm, 1 April 2005
This review is from: Double Vision (Paperback)
I really enjoyed the first 3/4 of this book and Pat Barker is a tremendous writer - I really cared about the characters especially Stephen and Kate which is a testament to Barker's skill. However, I feel Barker just kind of gave up at the end, there wasn't a satisfying conclusion (maybe that was intended), and it left me feeling a little cheated. I think this will be a book that I'll never be sure if I enjoyed it or not. Hmmmmm.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars bland, 26 Sep 2004
By 
C. Ramuz "Cherie" (South East England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Double Vision (Paperback)
I had high expectations of this novel based on Barker's previous work but found it really quite bland and rambling. The blurb describes it as 'provactive, intense and deeply moving' which is massively overstating the case. It certainly isn't a 'searing' novel more a short episode in the life of a tired reporter lusting after a plump teenager. Apparently Barker did a lot of research before writing the novel including attending the Milosevic trial and reading up on Goya but this is distilled for example, into a bland one-liner on Milosevic. There is a strange, unrelated trip to see a small Goya masterpiece. Yes, of course Goya's relevence is that he painted the horror of war but the meaning of this and other incidents as related to Stephen, are never woven into the narrative; they remain simply as passing references. The characters, including Stephen, are hardly developed and there is poor narrative control, which is most
jarring at the end of the book when Stephen and girlfriend visit an island, get attacked by birds then come home in a dodgy boat -'the end'. All the threads of the narrative should have been pulled together into some coherent shape or form rather than hanging loosely in a broken web. Could do better.
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3.0 out of 5 stars This book is brilliantly written in places, 11 July 2014
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This review is from: Double Vision (Kindle Edition)
This book is brilliantly written in places, and has some elegant themes but I felt like it ended at the halfway point. I wanted the character of Peter to be more developed, and his potentially very disturbing relationship with Kate to be explored more deeply. To me, they were the interesting characters, rather than the 'middle-aged' Stephen and the 'big-breasted' Justine.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An ethical exploration, 10 May 2014
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This review is from: Double Vision (Paperback)
There are some great themes explored within this novel, as well as Barkers usual regeneration theme. The nature of photography and art, especially when applied to the wider context of portrayals and representation of war runs through it and the exploration is great. Identifiable characters, just don't expect explosions etc...
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Double Vision by Pat Barker
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