By Pat Barker
Why this book?
In all three novels Barker does a masterful job depicting the physical and psychological effects of war on human bodies and minds. Real-life Doctor W. H. R. Rivers, a psychiatrist at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland, is a character in all three. Dr. Rivers was a pioneer in studying nerve regeneration and using talk therapy to unlock buried memories and help heal the shattered minds of soldiers suffering severe neurasthenia. Regeneration focuses on Dr. Rivers’ work with soldiers recovering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. In the process the reader is introduced to the range of other therapies also being used at the time, techniques that seem useless and cruel to contemporary eyes. A major character is real-life poet and war hero Siegfried Sassoon, a conscientious objector who has been sent to Craiglockhart to discredit him. Dr. Rivers experiences the painful irony that comes from convincing a man who is ambivalent about warfare to enter combat. In her novel, Barker also explores how society defines and responds to masculinity and homosexuality.
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