Synopses & Reviews
From Booker Prize winner Pat Barker, a masterful novel that portrays the staggering human cost of the Great War. Admirers of her Regeneration Trilogy as well as fans of Downton Abbey and War Horse will be enthralled.
With Toby’s Room, a sequel to her widely praised previous novel Life Class, the incomparable Pat Barker confirms her place in the pantheon of Britain’s finest novelists. This indelible portrait of a family torn apart by war focuses on Toby Brooke, a medical student, and his younger sister Elinor. Enmeshed in a web of complicated family relationships, Elinor and Toby are close: some might say too close. But when World War I begins, Toby is posted to the front as a medical officer while Elinor stays in London to continue her fine art studies at the Slade, under the tutelage of Professor Henry Tonks. There, in a startling development based in actual fact, Elinor finds that her drafting skills are deployed to aid in the literal reconstruction of those maimed in combat.
One day in 1917, Elinor has a sudden premonition that Toby will not return from France. Three weeks later the family receives a telegram informing them that Toby is “Missing, Believed Killed” in Ypres. However, there is no body, and Elinor refuses to accept the official explanation. Then she finds a letter hidden in the lining of Toby’s uniform; Toby knew he wasn’t coming back, and he implies that fellow soldier Kit Neville will know why.
Toby’s Room is an eloquent literary narrative of hardship and resilience, love and betrayal, and anguish and redemption. In unflinching yet elegant prose, Pat Barker captures the enormity of the war’s impact—not only on soldiers at the front but on the loved ones they leave behind.
Having come late to fiction--she was past 60 when her first novel appeared--Penelope Fitzgerald has made up for lost time. Three of her nine books were shortlisted for Britain's Booker Prize, whish she won in 1979 for Offshore. Her novel The Blue Flower,
based on the life of the German poet Novalis, nabbed the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.
“Awards are one thing, talent's another, and Fitzgerald has it in spades. Warm and wry, her writing is as economical as it is perfect. It's always a pleasure to see a new book under her name.” — Washington Post
“Fitzgerald is one of the finest living English writers, and readers acquainted only with her prize-winning historical novel of Germany, The Blue Flower, will relish encountering her on her home territory. Her beautifully economic fictions are always alive with meticulous, surprising phrases, whether she's conveying the expectant dread in England in 1940, when invasion seemed imminent, or writing about something more pragmatic, such as workers carrying on ‘with the exalted remorselessness characteristic of anyone who starts moving furniture.’” — Salon
A New Yorks Times Notable Book
It is 1917, and Elinor Brooke, a young painter, is studying art in London while her beloved brother Toby serves on the front as a medical officer. When Toby goes missing and is presumed dead, the devastated Elinor refuses to accept it. Then she finds a letter hidden among his belongings; it reveals that Toby knew he wasn’t coming back and implies that his friend, medic Kit Neville, knows why. But Kit has been horribly disfigured and is reeling from shell shock. While Elinor tries to piece together the mystery of what happened to her brother, she uses her drawing skills to aid in the surgical reconstruction of those who have suffered unspeakable losses—of their faces, their memories, their very minds. Masterfully written, daringly ambitious, Toby’s Room explores at all levels what it means to be human.
Penelope Fitzgerald's enchanting novel of the BBC in London during World War II. Featuring an introduction by Mark Damazer.
“A wonderful combination of deadpan English comedy and surreal farce.” — A. S. Byatt “A tribute to the unsung and quintessentially English heroism of imperfect people.” — New Criterion
When British listeners tuned in to the BBC's Nine O'Clock News in the middle of 1940, they had no idea what human dramas—and follies—were unfolding behind the scenes. Targeted by enemy bombers, the BBC had turned its concert hall into a dormitory for both sexes, and personal chaos rivaled the political. Amidst the bombs and broadcasts two program directors fight for power while their younger female assistants fall prey to affairs, abandonment, and unrequited love. Reading this intimate glimpse behind the scenes of the BBC in its heyday, “one is left with the sensation,” William Boyd wrote in London Magazine, “that this is what it was really like.”
This new edition features an introduction by Mark Damazer, along with new cover art.
About the Author
PENELOPE FITZGERALD wrote many books small in size but enormous in popular and critical acclaim over the past two decades. Over 300,000 copies of her novels are in print, and profiles of her life appeared in both The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. In 1979, her novel Offshore won Britain's Booker Prize, and in 1998 she won the National Book Critics Circle Prize for The Blue Flower. Though Fitzgerald embarked on her literary career when she was in her 60's, her career was praised as "the best argument.. for a publishing debut made late in life" (New York Times Book Review). She told the New York Times Magazine, "In all that time, I could have written books and I didn’t. I think you can write at any time of your life." Dinitia Smith, in her New York Times Obituary of May 3, 2000, quoted Penelope Fitzgerald from 1998 as saying, "I have remained true to my deepest convictions, I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as comedy, for otherwise how can we manage to bear it?"