cariola119, November 29, 2009 (view all comments by cariola119)
A beautifully written novel, the first in Barker's "Regeneration Trilogy" (the third volume won the Booker Prize). Set in a war hospital in England during World War I, the story revolves around several patients and physicians, including the poet Siegfried Sassoon. After serving honorably, Sassoon wrote an anti-war statement, which he asked an MP to read in session. His friend and fellow officer Robert Graves, knowing that Sassoon would be facing a court martial, claims the statement was due to battle fatigue and has him sent to Craiglockhaven for treatment. Dr. Rivers's task is to get Sassoon to agree to return to the front. A fascinating look at the social pressure put on young men during the war, as well as the effects of the war and of the treatment of the psychological scars it caused.
Wendy Robards, December 15, 2008 (view all comments by Wendy Robards)
Regeneration is the first book in Pat Barker’s World War I trilogy. Siegfried Sasson was an historical figure, a noted poet and decorated war hero who penned the Soldier’s Declaration - a refusal to continue serving as a British officer based on the moral grounds that the war was a misguided effort contributing to the senseless slaughter of men. Spared a court martial, Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland where the famous psychiatrist Dr. William Rivers was assigned the task of “curing” him from insanity in order to send him back to France and the front line.
The novel, however, is less about Sassoon and more about the psychological effects of war. Barker shows us the shell-shocked and mentally damaged patients through the eyes (mostly) of Dr. Rivers. Billy Prior arrives at the hospital unable to speak. A young soldier by the name of Burns is so traumatized by his experiences he is unable to eat without vomiting. The reader meets yet another soldier who is “paralyzed” even though his spinal cord is physically undamaged. In sensitively revealing the psychic injuries of the characters, Barker asks the essential question: Is war worth the toll it takes on those who sacrifice for it? Even Rivers, who is tasked with restoring men to duty, begins to question the morality of war.
Pat Barker’s strength is in revealing the emotions of her characters without being maudlin. Often she employs dialogue between doctor and patient to reveal the the horror of war and its impact.
Regeneration is a war novel which is set not on the battlefield, but inside the minds of its characters - many of whom are historical figures. I found it to be a slow start - it is a drama that slowly reels the reader into the story. Regeneration is written with compassion and a subtle tension which reveals a sometimes barbaric and disturbing period in the history of psychiatry. Barker writes with honesty and has created a novel which pricks at the conscience.
Regeneration was long-listed for the Booker Prize in 1991.
Recommended for those readers interested in historical fiction, particularly during World War I. Those interested in psychology will also find this novel a fascinating character study.
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Sarah E Rose, June 7, 2007 (view all comments by Sarah E Rose)
This is an incredibly powerful piece of fiction. Barker has the perfect entry into World War One-- by placing us in a mental institution for shell shocked soldiers. With each patient, we get flashes of trench warfare, leaving you with the experience of WWI a history book could never provide you. The subject matter is so rich-- all the characters are historically accurate, and showing us the war through the two greatest anti-war poets is fantastic. You leave the book feeling passionate about poetry and warfare and mental illness and human dignity and electro shock treatment as well as so many other things. Only a powerful writer like Barker could sweep you away like that, and all in one slim novel.
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"The trilogy is trying to tell something about the parts of war that don't get into the official accounts" Pat Barker
The first book of the Regeneration Trilogy and a Booker Prize nominee
In 1917 Siegfried Sasson, noted poet and decorated war hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World War I. His reason: the war was a senseless slaughter. He was officially classified "mentally unsound" and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital. There a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. William Rivers, set about restoring Sassoon's "sanity" and sending him back to the trenches. This novel tells what happened as only a novel can. It is a war saga in which not a shot is fired. It is a story of a battle for a man's mind in which only the reader can decide who is the victor, who the vanquished, and who the victim.
One of the most amazing feats of fiction of our time, Regneration has been hailed by critics across the globe. As August 2014 marks the 100-year anniversary of World War I, this book is as timely and relevant as ever.
Set in a British military hospital during WWI, this novel blends fact and fiction, drawing its two protagonists from the pages of history. The author of Union Street (made into the film Stanley and Iris) portrays over whelmed men who try to come to terms with their outrage of a futile war.
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