The Final Book In The Regeneration Trilogy, And Winner Of The Booker Prize The Ghost Road Is The Culminating Masterpiece Of Pat Barker S Towering World War I Fiction Trilogy The Time Of The Novel Is The Closing Months Of The Most Senselessly Savage Of Modern Conflicts In France, Millions Of Men Engaged In Brutal Trench Warfare Are All Ghosts In The Making In England, Psychologist William Rivers, With Severe Pangs Of Conscience, Treats The Mental Casualties Of The War To Make Them Whole Enough To Fight Again One Of These, Billy Prior, Risen To The Officer Class From The Working Class, Both Courageous And Sardonic, Decides To Return To France With His Fellow Officer, Poet Wilfred Owen, To Fight A War He No Longer Believes In Meanwhile, Rivers, Enfevered By Influenza, Returns In Memory To His Experience Studying A South Pacific Tribe Whose Ethos Amounted To A Culture Of Death Across The Gulf Between His Society And Theirs, Rivers Begins To Form Connections That Cast New Light On His And Our Understanding Of War Combining Poetic Intensity With Gritty Realism, Blending Biting Humor With Tragic Drama, Moving Toward A Denouement As Inevitable As It Is Devastating, The Ghost Road Both Encapsulates History And Transcends It It Is A Modern Masterpiece This novel is the third in a trilogy, and I have to admit that my reading probably suffered from not having read the first two volumes that form the story The novel opens in the final months before the end of World War I The Narrator alternates points of view between Dr Rivers a real historical figure who treats shell shocked and damaged men at a War Hospital and one of his former patients at the hospital, a young and not very likeable lieutenant.From the beginning my interest was held by the war hospital setting, the broken men and Dr Rivers s rather unorthodox methods of treatment I also found the fever induced memories of his time with a head hunting tribe on a Melanesian island to make fascinating reading Inevitably the reader s mind is led to draw parallels between the attitudes of the Melanesian tribesmen, those of their new rulers and those prevalent in war torn Europe some twenty years later For all the inevitability and truth in those conclusions I felt like a child held by the hand and led to them and this I resented I wish there could have been subtlety.I was distinctly less interested when the narrative switched to the young lieutenant Looking back I can see that he was a very well drawn character, shown to us with warts and all The thousands that marched to their death during that period of unnecessary bloodshed were not beautiful saints, they were men with faults, and not always likeable And they didn t deserve the suffering and fate that was meted out to them Still, I found my interest ebbing away when the author focused on the earthy needs and pursuits of this man Billy Prior, who returns to the trenches, in spite of medical advice, not only doesn t break down, but performs one final act of heroism before the guns cease Even so he can take no pride in an act that he recognises as futile, and one that ultimately causes suffering I thought the descriptions of the realities of the war zone and the trenches to be quite persuasive if a little forced in comparison to other books with the same subject matter All Quiet on the Western Front comes to mind. Last of an excellent trilogy and it does help to have read the previous two books as many of the characters run through them all and there are references back You could read it as a standalone, but a good deal would be lost, especially the nuance We reconnect with characters from the previous books There is very little of Sassoon and Owen is present in a small way Prior and Rivers take centre stage The narrative alternates between the two as they experience the last days of the war We also go in flashback to the time Rivers spent in Melanesia with a tribe of head hunters.Prior is recovering and makes a deliberate decision to return to France, reflecting the same decisions made by Owen and Sassoon The sex death circle works its way through in Prior s liaisons before and after he returns to France Rivers describes observing a tribe in Melanesia who had been banned from headhunting and other warlike activities Their whole reason for existence had disappeared and as their culture was based on the rituals related to the gaining of heads the tribe was in decline and lethargy had set in The contrasts with war in the west are neatly and obviously drawn We see Prior, despite his deprived working class childhood, developing his own voice and starting a diary We also see over the trilogy what the war did for women, allowing them independence previously not possible and the chance of earning a wage One character even says that August 4th 1914, when the war started was for her the day Peace broke out the only little bit of peace I ve ever had I remember when this book came out one reviewer s idea of praise was to say that it could have been written by a man Barker had previously written about strong working class women here she focuses on men, but also on the effects of war for women and the adjustments society had to make as it coped with shellshock and the thousands of men it affected She is reflecting some of her own working class northern background and she has said herself that she decided to write about the war following some patronising reviews of her early novels about women What a response And, of course these novels are just as feminist and class centred as her earlier ones just reframed The last chapter of the novel again emphasises the sheer futility of it all focussing on some of the last actions of the war, when everyone knew it was over and peace was days away The troops, including Prior and Owen are sent over the top for the last time. Shotfarfet So mutters a horribly wounded Craiglockhart patient to his family and fianc e, as Rivers stands helplessly in attendancehis speech was incomprehensible The wound to his lower jaw made it difficult to determine whether this represented a deficit in the power of using language, or whether the failure to communicate was entirely or primarily mechanical He showed some understanding of speech, howeverHe suddenly realizes what the man is saying through his mangled face view spoiler It s not worth it hide spoiler The final installment of Pat Barker s trilogy regains some of the cohesion lost in the second one, partly because it focuses on Dr Rivers past, and partly because Billy Prior as repugnant as ever finally returns to battle What does it say when the horrors of trench warfare perk up a story A chunk of the narration takes place as Dr Rivers battles influenza and his mind wanders back to the time he spent in Melanesia researching a tribe of head hunters Their barbaric thirst for heads yet their willingness to curtail the practice, the white man s abhorrence of head hunting yet their willingness to send millions of young men to their deaths, a people destroyed by their refusal to fight wars and a nation destroyed by fighting a warthese contradictions all give a not too subtle commentary on the moral ambiguity of 20th century British culture Frankly, I d sort of checked out A little social criticism goes a long way if you re not distracted by engaging characters Plus I d endured too many tasteless sexual encounters between Billy and whoever was handy to really care much about the book What on earth would make an author think that coarseness is going to be anything other than repellent Are there readers so depraved that they don t mind I shudder to think One of the big disappointments with the trilogy is that the characters who were so fascinating in Regeneration, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, are absent from the second book and make only cameo appearances in the last Much of the charm which isn t really the right word of Regeneration s premise is the fleshing out of historical people and encounters Instead, Barker took the least appealing character from the first book and focused the rest of the series on him The ending, at least, packs a punch And as a bonus, Wilfred Owen returns for a brief appearance, even if it is only in time to get killed at the Sambre Oise Canal he died on November 4, exactly one week before Armistice his mother received word of his death as church bells rang out victory that part s not in the novel I would definitely read Regeneration and definitely skip the next two Bizarrely, The Ghost Road is the one that actually won the Booker Award. Compared with previous war novel read Empire of the Sun, this WWI novel evades the actual battlefield, to the benefit of everyone, I suppose No this one is Best Years of Our Lives with raunchy sex and modern yearnings for release, than, say, other bloody epics like Gone with the Wind or The War at the End of the World I just noticed these are not WWII novels Still The men in The Ghost Road are basically hydra heads they converge in their collective destroyed psyche they all survive that same dire illness the aftereffects of constant murder despair I will be frank, war novels are not my cup o tea Too much description usually gives me a headache, the panorama is so vast and awesome and the characters can often be thought of as pawns But this account is semitrue, taking exquisite care with the characterizations, which are rich despite the spare prose Think of this as an emblem of MASCULINITY of war Even Prior, a gay character read breath of fresh air for this genre , can separate sexuality camaraderie This truly has something to say It s a very rich, enlightening, must read. I can t say enough good about this trilogy In an interview with Pat Barker, she described growing up in a home where she saw the lifetime of effects of WWI Struggling with the effects of a war she didn t live through, her obsession lead to a brilliantly re imagined world, much of it based on historical records.She addresses the war from several angles a brilliant psychologist, women who are freed to work in munitions factories, soldiers faced with moral and class conflicts The first book is set in an institution where soldiers are sent for shell shock A pacifist is sent there too, to prevent him from speaking out about the war The second book addresses the government s fear of traitors in war time gays and socialists are targeted.The third continues the story of a few of the characters, who are now returning to the front The writing is remarkable, flipping from harsh memories, to forgotten childhood incidents, to the psychologist s anthropology studies in Africa The therapy sessions were the most engrossing almost voyeuristic but they did so much to develop all the characters.All three books are engaging interesting plots and characters but work on a deeper level too, questioning why nations go to war and how individuals survive it. An incredible finale to an amazing trilogy This trilogy about the psychological impacts of the Great War is impressive The Ghost Road and part one Regeneration were the best In The Eye in the Door , the character development of Lt Prior was somewhat off It was a bit too much to handle The final installment made up for a lot The stories of both Prior and Rivers were fascinating They came together in the end in a powerful and horrifying understanding of the impact of war, and the futilty of this war, but also gave a clear understanding of the double standards civilized nations upheld in those days and nowadays, no doubt about what was civilized and what not This trilogy is highly recommended How do you review a book that you found average A book that you suspect will disappear from your memory as soon as you pick up something else to read My personality goes quite well both with rants about horrid books Thank you, Coelho, writing a review on The Alchemist was a blast and with gushing about books that made me cry and laugh and shiver yes, Of Human Bondage is still there with me in its entirety, long after closing the book with a sigh of sadness that the 700 page journey is over.But a historical novel on World War I, with fictional characters I can t really relate to Well, I have to admit that I made a mistake I chose it for winning the Booker Prize and it happened to fall into my hands , and I was not aware it was the third part in a trilogy It can certainly be read as a standalone, but I might have a different opinion if I had read the other two in the series as well.My problem with it is on a different level, though I love history, and I love literary fiction and poetry I completely understand why a contemporary author would embark on the endeavour to WRITE historical fiction, to lose herself in historical documents, primary sources, objects, witness reports, to reconstruct an era through thorough research I understand Pat Barker But this kind of novel always leaves me with the feeling that it must be rewarding to write it than to read it For I am not very interested in Pat Barker s reconstructions and relationships with historical characters I want to go on that journey first hand myself, not explore it in the language of today, through the lense of another history teacher I want to reread The Poems Of Wilfred Owen, to get to know Sassoon better, or add another Remarque experience to my favourite All Quiet on the Western Front, or even reread sections of the splendid brick of Churchill s The World Crisis, 1911 1918 I want to read all the fiction that was produced back then, adding nuance and understanding through the voices of that time, as I have so often done before, Of Human Bondage and The Voyage Out forever on my best of the best shelf ever since, joining hands with Hemingway s and other brilliant authors war experiences So it is maybe my own fault that I find this rather uninspiring It is a solid novel, for sure But to paraphrase the most significant quote in the story, it is already a ghost in the making in my literary world. In the third book of the trilogy, we leave the rear to move to the heart of the battle, in the last days before the end of the war, when seemed that everything was over The author describes life in the trenches, using raw language for the last lethal battles and cynicism through her heroes for the quietest moments that give the opportunity to challenge what they are doing.At the same time, something very interesting, psychiatrist Rivers remembers his journey to the South Pacific where he was hosted by a tribe of headhunters, and so he was able to study their culture that seems to revolve around death This is what gives a lot of food for thought Despite our evolution, are we modern humans still in the same class as the most primitive tribes Is war a result of a culture of death worship similar to the most aggressive tribes This parallelization is very interesting as in the philosophy of the most fanatical supporters of the war there was this very idea, that war is something invigorating for a society, that the continuous presence of death, either in the form of losses or by the form of extermination of the enemy keeps people alert and makes them energetic An idea that continued to exist and led to the creation of fascism and then to the Second World War.Back to the hospital, doctors and nurses have realized that the war is not going to end, as the Spanish flu is making its appearance and is already beginning to cause great losses and they are called to treat these patients along with the injured of the battles So the book ends and perhaps the author answers to what I mentioned above about death Together comes the end of this wonderful trilogy which in the simplest way talks about the consequences of the war and makes very important questions about it, making these three books a very important reading for the First World War Rivers ,.
Pat Barker was born in Thornaby on Tees in 1943 She was educated at the London School of Economics and has been a teacher of history and politics Her books include 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 s married and lives in Durham, Engla
- 277 pages
- The Ghost Road
- Pat Barker
- 14 August 2019 Pat Barker