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Toby's Room Paperback – August 30, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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 is most recently the author of "Life Class," as well as the highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy: "Regeneration"; "The Eye in the Door," winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize; and "The Ghost Road," winner of the Booker Prize; as well as seven other novels. She lives in the north of England.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd (August 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241145228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241145227
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,043,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pat Barker's new WW1 novel, "Toby's Room", is a book of secrets. Some are so nuanced that you don't realise they are secrets - or even facts - til they're exposed. That's what a good writer - and Pat Barker is a remarkable one - does to advance both the storyline and the characters' lives.

"Toby's Room" begins in 1912 and ends in 1917. The first part - the shorter part - introduces the reader to the Brooke family - parents who are estranged both physically and emotionally. Three children, Rachel is the oldest and is married, and the two younger, Toby and Elinor are, respectively, a medical student and an art student, and live in London. Elinor Brooke was featured in an earlier Barker book - "Life Class" - which I haven't read, along with two other main characters in this book, Kit Neville and Paul Tarrant. The new book appears to be a sequel of sorts, though when I read the description of "Life Class", both seem to present the same WW1 battle scenes. Maybe like Jane Gardam's tandem duo, "Old Filth" and "The Man with the Wooden Hat", the same characters appear in both Barker's books, telling the story from different angles.

Toby Brooke - the medical student in 1912 - is the center of that part of the story. Elinor and Toby were raised almost as twins and stay extremely close as they age. She lives near him in London while a student at the real Slade School of Fine Art, but certain feelings intrude that are destructive to both. By 1917, Toby, Kit, and Paul are off to France to fight. Toby is a front-line doctor and the other two are in auxiliary battle roles.

Toby disappears on the battlefield - literally blown up with no remains - and the Brooke family is devastated. Elinor realises she must know what happened to Toby in the days leading up to his death.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I understand that you cannot judge a book by its cover. On the other hand, Joel Spector's pastel rendering of Toby on the dust jacket of Booker Prize winner Pat Barker's new novel TOBY'S ROOM is precisely the way the writer portrays him, a stroke of genius on the part of the artist, and important since much of the book has to do with artists, both those who draw the war wounded and the character Elinor Brooke who paints portraits of her brother Toby Brooke. This is another of those novels that you cannot say a lot about the plot without spoiling the book for future readers. Is this a characteristic of Booker Prize winners I ask. Julian Barnes (A SENSE OF AN ENDING), Ian McEwan (SWEET TOOTH), and John Banville (ANCIENT LIGHT), three previous winners, are other examples. While the characters certainly are complex and well-developed--- it is intriguing to watch them change as the narrative progresses--this novel is ultimately plot driven, beginning in 1912 and ending in 1917 and is about the effects of the Great War on several characters, both those who stayed at home and those who went to war. Elinor and Toby are members of a British family with secrets. "What a family they were for not speaking. . . Apart from the breakdown of her parents' marriage, she [Elinor] couldn't have said what the secrets were. But there was something: a shadow underneath the water." (p. 6). Soon Elinor has her own deep dark secrets to keep. Ultimately she will discover many more secrets in connection with her beloved brother Toby. We learn from the dust cover blurb that he will not return from World War I-- so I am not revealing the ending of the novel-- but Elinor and the other members of her family of course, as would all families in that predicament, want to know the details of his death.Read more ›
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Hurd on October 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have read all of Pat Barker's novels about WW I and each of them grabs me from some place where empathy begins and moves on to anquish. The characters endure the worst of war and its aftermath and bring the reader along for a clear view. Becoming reaquainted with characters from earlier books helps to establish a longer view of the affect warfare has on everyone well into their lives.

Toby's Room draws us back again to WW I when the war became too awful to comprehend, picking up where the artists in Still Life were left in shock at how it had dealt with their lives. Elinor, who tried to be above the war and refused to look it in the eye, is now face to face with the death of her brother and the terrible physical injuries to her friends. I am a nature illustrator so I understand the place of medical illustration in chronicalling the facial injuries in that time when photography was less useful. Elinor has taken on this role and it has to change her. Paul and Kit, both injured in the fighting, become "war artists" who are not allowed to depict death. These people are not perfect, but they try to behave as well as they can, sometimes betrayed by the nature of their flaws. We want them to find peace in compassion for one another even if understanding is elusive.

These books are so beautifully written, from the way they expose us to the inner lives of the people we send to do awful things, to the honest, but not graphic, look at the awful things they have done. They do not spare the feelings of those of us who didn't have to go, but want to turn away when we are confronted with the returning human wrecks we honor. Can't recommend this book and its precursors, more highly.
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