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.
"Fans of Barker's Regeneration trilogy know she has a gift for combining real and imagined characters, for making you see the horrors of war, and for knowing that people don't stop having sex or being themselves because there's a war on. This story, which revisits the characters of Barker's last novel, Life Class, and is also set before and during WWI, features some of these traits, but, alas, without the fierce immediacy that made the trilogy so memorable. The titular Toby is painter Elinor Brooke's brother; they're close, problematically so; when news comes that he's 'missing, believed dead,' the need to know what happened takes over Elinor. In time, it reconnects her to Kit Neville, part of Toby's team of medics, and Paul Tarrant, soldiers and war artists who were her fellow students, and, in Paul's case, her former lover. Part mystery, part exploration of the varieties and vagaries of love and grief, part a description of British efforts to devise prosthetics and document the worst injuries, the book covers a lot of ground perhaps too much. Readers may not feel the same urgency that Elinor does, and the eventual solution to the mystery, coming as it does amid all the other themes, doesn't pack the necessary punch. Agent: Gillon Aitken, Aitken Alexander Associates." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Pat Barker confirms her place in the pantheon of Britain's finest novelists with a masterful novel that portrays the staggering human cost of the Great War. Admirers of the Regeneration trilogy and fans of Downton Abbey alike will be enthralled.
The incomparable Booker Prize winner once again demonstrates her ability to eloquently convey simple, moving truths. The enormity of the war's impact—not only on soldiers at the front but on the loved ones they leave behind—is poignantly expressed in her unflinching and elegant prose.
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.