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Regeneration (Regeneration Trilogy) Paperback – December 31, 2013
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Regeneration, one in Pat Barker's series of novels confronting the psychological effects of World War I, focuses on treatment methods during the war and the story of a decorated English officer sent to a military hospital after publicly declaring he will no longer fight. Yet the novel is much more. Written in sparse prose that is shockingly clear -- the descriptions of electronic treatments are particularly harrowing -- it combines real-life characters and events with fictional ones in a work that examines the insanity of war like no other. Barker also weaves in issues of class and politics in this compactly powerful book. Other books in the series include The Eye in the Door and the Booker Award winner The Ghost Road. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
In 1917, decorated British officer and poet Siegfried Sassoon wrote a declaration condemning the war. Instead of a court-martial, he was sent to a hospital for other "shell-shocked" officers where he was treated by Dr. William Rivers, noted an thropologist and psychiatrist. Author Barker turns these true occurrences into a compelling and brilliant antiwar novel. Sassoon's complete sanity disturbs Dr. Rivers to such a point that he questions his own role in "curing" his patients only to send them back to the slaughter of the war in France. World War I decimated an entire generation of European men, and the horrifying loss of life and the callousness of the government led to the obliteration of the Victorian ideal. This is an important and impressive novel about war, soldiers, and humanity. It belongs in most fiction collections.
- C. Christopher Pavek, National Economic Research As socs. Lib., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Recently someone suggested Regeneration, since I had gotten interested in the impact of World War I in Europe (it had a less emphatic effect over here, I think. Not as devastating to us as the influenza epidemic that followed it). And I remembered meeting Barker and wondered that I had let her work slip past me. I began reading, and quickly saw what those early reviewers had meant. I found myself marveling not only at the story, but at this writer's very high art and skills. Many writers tell a good story, and you either read around glitches in the execution or just skip when you come to the dead parts. It had been so long since I had read a truly great book, that I had forgotten the force of masterly skills - I had forgotten how important doing something brilliantly could be to the effect of the whole.
Barker does many things brilliantly. Description of scene and emotion - fantastic. Ditto to internal monologue, which sets a character in our minds. And sliding easily and naturally from one character to another. Moving back and forth in time as simply as we ourselves do when something today calls to mind something from years ago. She deepens our understanding of each character and the background as she goes. This is high art in service of story, not in service to itself.
Barker's knowledge of just which details are important is another skill to marvel at. These scenes are evocative to the reader as well as to the character experiencing them, as tales within tales let us see farther and more clearly. At the same time, the forward movement of the overall story never falters. I couldn't put this book down.
The trilogy, of which this is the first part, treats of the multitude of ways an external trauma, in this case war, acts upon individuals and on a society as a whole. Barker uses historical characters as well as invented ones. And such is the level of her skill, known people like Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, for example, to say nothing of the other war poets and the medical people, are never ever the usual wooden historical characters. They are as finely thought- and felt-out as those other characters whom the writer has been free to invent. The reader is drawn well and truly into their lives, unaware of history's heavy hand.
That means that this is hardly a "historical novel," along the lines of those we have access to every day. It is as natural as Yourcenar's The Memoirs of Hadrian, and to my mind, an even better book than that classic.
I'm now deep into the third and final volume of the trilogy, The Ghost Road (which won England's Booker award in the late 1990s). The second, The Eye in Door, is so powerfully revealing of the inner forces shaping our lives that I will reread it many many times. I cannot even think of parts of it without a shiver.
Once at Craiglockhart, Sassoon comes under the care of psychiatrist Dr. William Rivers whose job it is to restore soldiers like Sassoon to full duty and send them back to the trenches. We also meet other historical characters suffering from various forms of battle fatigue, something that would be characterized today as PTSD. One of these men is another famous British poet, Wilfred Owen. Sassoon and Owen become friends and have numerous sessions polishing their poetry which tells the horrors of war.
This book has both bright and dark moments. In the latter category, Dr. Rivers witnesses the treatments given by Dr. Yealland who successfully uses electric shock therapy to get a speechless patient talking. Barker creates a fictional character named Billy Prior who has a fling with a local girl named Sarah. We get glimpses of local customs with humorous examples of dialogue, dating rituals, and how young women knew what the soldiers wanted.
Dr. Rivers has one crucial responsibility, writing a report on each patient before he comes up before a review board, a group of army officers who will decide whether the patient is fit for duty returned to combat. The board usually agrees with whatever Rivers recommends and he takes this responsibility seriously. The remarkable thing was the willingness, and sometimes outright zeal, for these soldiers to return to near certain death. One person in the book cites a figure that staggered me; 120,000 casualties in a single month.
Nevertheless, both Owen and Sassoon accept their fate and return to their units. Tragically, Wilfred Owen is killed in action on November 4, only a week before the armistice, but Sassoon escapes this fate and lives to the ripe old age of eighty. A reader must wonder why they, and many others like them, were so willing to do this. As Barker makes clear, they felt an overwhelming loyalty to mates back in their units, as well as to England, and didn’t want to be thought of as cowards.
I’m glad I read this book but it was tough going at times because of the subject matter and Barker’s writing style. I’m not sure whether I’ll continue with the other two books in the trilogy.