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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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Toby's Room Hardcover – October 2, 2012

4 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Toby's Room:

Barker...has pursued [World War I] through a remarkable series of novels: the much-admired "Regeneration" trilogy...Life Class and now Toby's Room.... [T]hese novels go far beyond a demonstration of the powers of the historical imagination. Like most good works of fiction, they’re not so much about the events they depict as about the resonance of those events, the way certain actions ripple through people’s lives.... Toby's Room takes large risks. It’s dark, painful and indelibly grotesque, yet it is also tender. It strains its own narrative control to create in the midst of an ordinary life a kind of deformed reality—precisely to illustrate how everything we call ‘ordinary’ is disfigured by war. And it succeeds brilliantly."— John Vernon, New York Times Book Review

"[T]he writing is lucid and often beautiful."—Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly

"A tantalizing and moving return to wartime London."—Joanna Scutts, Washington Post

"You get a glimpse inside Toby’s room in Pat Barker’s poignant novel of the same name, but what you remember are three real and very different English landmarks — the Slade, London’s prestigious art academy; Cafe Royal, frequented by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill and Virginia Woolf; and the Queen’s Hospital, opened in 1917 to serve injured British soldiers in need of facial reconstruction.... No one evokes England in all its stiff-upper-lip gritty wartime privation like Barker. She is as uncompromising as Henry Tonks, as determined to render an honest portrayal of war. She will not allow us to sweep it out of sight.... [She] sets the bar high."—Ellen Kanner, Miami Herald

"Haunting and complicated sibling love is at the heart of Pat Barker's Great War novel.... [T]he precision of Ms. Barker's writing shows her again to be one of the finest chroniclers of both the physical and psychological disfigurements exacted by the First World War."—Wall Street Journal

"Barker deftly fused fact and fiction in her hugely impressive "Regeneration Trilogy" by turning the war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen into integral characters. She continues this blending in Toby's Room.... [It] is in many ways Barker's most ambitious novel to date.... As ever, the war scenes, and the accounts of the broken men who inhabit them, are, by turn, gripping and unsettling. However, in with the carnage and the trauma are those expert passages on art as something both reflective and redemptive. This is a powerful book that chronicles in various ingenious ways, and from certain unique perspectives, 'the poignancy of a young life cut short.'"—Malcolm Forbes, San Francisco Chronicle

"A Pat Barker novel…is a novel that deals in some way with the horrors of World War One, and it’s a also a novel about art, but mostly it’s a novel about how art attempts to depict the horrors of World War One. And this is how a Pat Barker novel attempts to depict the horrors of World War One: bluntly."—Brock Clark, Boston Globe

"[A]lthough Toby’s Room is not billed as a prequel or sequel to Life Class and the reader need not be familiar with that novel in order to get to grips with this... [t]hose who do know Barker’s previous work will be struck by recurrences and continuations in this novel not only of events in Life Class, but in Regeneration, too.... [Barker's] prose remains fresh, humanely business-like, crisp and unsentimental. Images are scrupulously vivid, and the plot has real momentum."—Freya Johnston, Telegraph (London)

"A driving storyline and a clear eye, steadily facing the history of our world.... For Barker, the wounded faces of the soldier-victims are realities, and also emblems of what must never be forgotten or evaded about war, and must continue – in her plain, steady, compelling voice – to be turned into art."—Hermione Lee, Guardian (London)

Praise for Life Class

“Beautiful and evocative . . . A coming-of-age story that transcends the individual and gestures to the fate of a generation.”

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.


Life Class is available in Anchor paperback.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385524366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385524360
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #532,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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