welcome to our book reviews and news page
recent publications and classic reads revisited
covering a wide range of genre, taste and style
please join in the discussion
Sunday, 9 May 2010
by Pat Barker
This book is the first in a trilogy, the other two being 'The Eye in The Door' and 'The Ghost Road' (winner of the 1995 Booker Prize for Fiction). 'Regeneration' looks at how patients during the First World War were treated at the Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland by army psychiatrist William Rivers. Some are suffering from shell shock. Others, like Siegfried Sassoon, have problems understanding why the war is being prolonged and believe that those that have the power to stop it should do so. He writes, 'A Soldier’s Declaration' and battles with his superiors and the experiences he has witnessed on the battlefield.
William Rivers has the job of helping these troubled men find their way back to health once more, then has to decide if they are fit to be sent back to fight. As he gets to know the men and what they’ve suffered, it becomes harder for him to do so.
The relationship between Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, two poets who have been sent for treatment to Craiglockhart, is treated insightfully and the look at the horrors of what men experienced, and the ways their minds coped, is both saddening and fascinating. Pat Barker intertwines fact and fiction so well that the reader is drawn into the book completely. You can’t help feeling shocked at the way these young men are expected to both keep enduring their nightmares and then be sent back to the very place where they nearly lost their minds.
Through the book we also learn how advanced Rivers’ treatment of his patients was, and how, even though other doctors of that period managed to make great progress when treating their patients, what they did to them was almost akin to torture. Did the act justify the results he managed to achieve?
Regeneration was both disturbing and fascinating. This was the first book by Pat Barker that I’d read, however the atmosphere and feeling of that period of time is reflected so well in her writing that I’ve now ordered 'The Eye in The Door' and 'The Ghost Road'.
Reviewed by Debs Carr