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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 18 September 2017
As expected
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on 16 November 2008
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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on 9 February 2014
Enjoyed the book especially about Siegfried Sassoon and friendship with Wilfred Owen. And the trials for Dr Rivers treating so many disturbed so.diers. Thank goodness methods have changed today
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on 3 March 2017
Great
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Absolutely superb novel that brings the utter horrors of the First World War to life without going near a battleground.

Set in a Scottish hospital, and based on the true life character of psychiatrist William Rivers who sees the terrible mental trauma inflicted by the war on men who are terrified to return yet conditioned to feel it their duty to get back to their comrades... And the doctors whose role - undertaken by some more enthusiastically than others - is to 'fit young men back into the role of warrior, a role they had - however unconsciously - rejected.'

As he treats various patients, including poet Siegfried Sassoon, who is vehemently opposed to the continuance of the War, Rivers is only too aware that 'normally a cure implies that the patient will no longer engage in behaviour that is clearly self-destructive. But in present circumstances, recovery meant the resumption of activities that were not merely self-destructive but positively suicidal.'
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on 18 November 1998
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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on 2 July 2007
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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on 8 February 2005
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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on 25 June 2017
Excellent book.
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on 25 June 2004
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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