Synopses & Reviews
Out walking with his wife, Lauren, beside the river Tyne, Tom Seymour instinctively risks his life to save a young man who they happen to notice just before he jumps into the icy current. Tom's spontaneous act saves the life of someone whose past, as well as his future, he feels a sense of responsibility towards. Recently released from prison, and living under an assumed name, Danny Miller was tried for murder as a ten-year-old on the basis of Tom's testimony, and assessment of him as a psychologist and an expert witness. When Danny asks Tom to help him sort out his life—beginning with his past—Tom is drawn into a lonely, soul-searching reinvestigation of the child murderer's case.
"It's her canny feel for the psyche's ambiguous meanderings, more than plot twists, that generates most of the thrills . . . This author creates an atmosphere of menace worthy of a Joyce Carol Oates."—Dan Cryer, Newsday
"Barker soars to new heights with this harrowing, contemporary study of fate tainted by the stench of evil."—Robert Allen Papinchak, USA Today
"Barker creates a sense of menace worth of Ian McEwan . . . Border Crossing is replete with sharp, expressive exchanges, hard poetry, and as many enigmas as implacable truths."—Kerry Field, The Atlantic Monthly
"Barker writes with compelling urgency—Border Crossing is to be read in one sitting."—Joan Mellen, The Baltimore Sun
"Exhilerating moral exploration, and prose as naked and jolting as an unwrapped live wire."—Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review
"Pat barker understands the dynamics of psychic and shutdown as well as any writer living . . . In Border Crossing Barker brings post-traumatic stress disorder fromthe literal to the domestic battlefield."—Sven Birkerts, Esquire
Set in the north of England, Barker's new novel portrays a child psychiatrist who rescues a man from drowning one day while walking on a beach in Northumberland. Uncannily, he recognizes the man: it's Danny Miller, a child murderer at whose trial he once gave evidence. Since the trial, he has reconsidered that evidence and found it lacking. Now he confronts the man whose altered fate may be his responsibility.
About the Author
is the author of 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. She lives in England.
Reading Group Guide
1. At the outset of Border Crossing, an act of rescue occurs—or so it would seem. Identify both of the primary characters in the novel, explaining where and when they originally met as well as how and why they are reunited. How is this rescue metaphor—be it coincidental or intended—present throughout the story? Who are the books hero and villain?
2. Give the personal problems he is facing—his failing marriage and imminent divorce, his difficult dealings with his mother in the wake of his fathers death—why does Tom Seymour agree to resume his sessions with Danny Miller, albeit in an unofficial way? Now that its been over a decade since their last contact, what does Tom hope to do for Danny—and for himself?
3. Border Crossing is a tale of suspense that plays on both the real and imaginary workings of the minds of the characters—and the mind of the reader. Which scenes or aspects of the novel struck you as psychologically thrilling? Which did not? Explain your answers with citations from the narrative. Also, explain which passages, if any, seemed especially funny to you. How well does humor fit in the make-up of this novel? Or does it even belong here? Defend your response.
4. The character of Danny is depicted, by necessity, in several different ways: would-be suicide, charming young man, confused child, and so on. But how does Danny see himself? As a reformed criminal, for instance, a victim of child abuse, or otherwise? Discuss the impressions of Danny offered by the novels secondary characters, such as Martha Pitt, Nigel Lewis, Mr. and Mrs. Greene, and Angus MacDonald. Based on these descriptions, and on Toms past and present sessions with him, construct a psychological and emotional composite of Danny.
5. Apart from his concerns with Danny, Tom has a professional project that requires his time and effort.
Describe the book he is working on. How does Toms book echo the larger themes of Border Crossing, and Dannys case in particular.
6. In Chapter Six, during one of their informal sessions, Danny puts the following to Tom pointblank: “You see the real question is: can people change?” How does Tom answer this question? Would Danny answer it differently? If so, how? And how does the novel itself answer this query? Explain how the dual themes of evil and redemption run throughout this narrative.
7. In an interview with Salon.com, author Pat Barker spoke about how her novel reflects recent violent crimes committed by children in both America and her native England: “When children do something like this it creates a feeling of despair about the future.” Describe how this sentiment is rendered in the pages of Border Crossing. Did your view of violent children and/or societys punishment of them change after reading the book? If so, or if not, explain why.
8. Think back to Toms childhood memory (in Chapter Five) of a boy named Neil. Why does this particular memory come back to Tom, and how does it relate to Dannys case?
9. Describe the vision Tom has when he closes his eyes in the books final scene. Who does he see? Why is it significant that Danny has also had this vision? Comment on how and why Tom and Dannys identities and individual histories are blurred throughout this story.
10. Why do you think Barker chose to call her narrative Border Crossing? Discuss the various notions or meanings suggested by the title of this novel.