By Pat Barker,

Book cover of Regeneration

Book description

"Calls to mind such early moderns as Hemingway and Fitzgerald...Some of the most powerful antiwar literature in modern English fiction."-The Boston Globe

The first book of the Regeneration Trilogy-a Booker Prize nominee and one of Entertainment Weekly's 100 All-Time Greatest Novels.

In 1917 Siegfried Sasson, noted poet and decorated war…

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Why read it?

7 authors picked Regeneration as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The first of Pat Barker’s masterful Regeneration Trilogy won the Booker Prize in 1995 for its absorbing and sensitive study of the impact of war on the minds of the men who fought. Based on a real-life relationship between army psychologist W.H.R Rivers and the poet Siegfried Sassoon, Barker really conveys the horrors of war and explores human relationships in this intense book which I found immersive and emotionally draining. I like books that make me feel deeply, sometimes uncomfortably and this dark and graphic study makes a powerful anti-war statement.

I chose this historical fiction trilogy that explores British officers’ experience with shell shock, later defined as PTSD, during WWI because in that war it was first identified by doctors. It mixes fictional and historical characters, most notably poets Sigfried Sasson and Wilfred Owen, and their stay at a military psychiatric hospital, Craiglockhart in Scotland. Like the other books I recommend, this trilogy details the effects of war on a soldier’s identity and masculinity (many at the time thought these shell-shocked soldiers were less than men for not having a stiff, upper lip and carrying on). And Barker does it…

This novel opens Barker’s extraordinary trilogy about World War I, based on accounts given by the soldiers themselves. Barker’s research gives the opening novel a wonderful authenticity and a look into the biographies of soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon and eminent psychiatrist W. H. Rivers. Sassoon’s protest against the excesses and horrors of war that he witnessed land him in Craiglockart War Hospital as a shell-shocked patient of Dr. Rivers, who becomes more and more conflicted about sending such shell-shocked men back onto the battlefield after his “cures.” I found the novel to be a tale of fascinating history and psychological depth.…

This is another book about creativity, trauma, and the healing power of writing, but this time, the subjects are men. In this work of historical fiction, Barker explores the real experiences of the war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, and their psychotherapist WH Rivers. Barker gives us a nuanced look at male love and friendship within her exploration of a doctor working on the treatment of trauma, then described as ‘shell shock’ (today known as PTSD). 

From Eileen's list on managing mental suffering.

Siegfried Sassoon was a decorated war hero. His friend Robert Graves described Sassoon’s unswerving bravery in volunteering for the most dangerous raids as almost suicidal. But this homosexual son of the English Jewish merchant aristocracy achieved poetic note during the Great War through lyrics he wrote in protest against the war. He finally issued a public letter condemning the casual way in which leaders sent young men by their thousands to the slaughter for “end which I believe to be evil and unjust.” That was grounds for court-martial and execution by firing squad. In part thanks to Graves’ intervention to…

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…

From Mary's list on WW1 through multiple perspectives.

This superbly written suite of novels does what far too few books about the war does: it brings alive not just those who fought this terrible conflict, but those who were brave enough to oppose it, and who suffered greatly for their pains. The middle volume is loosely based on the case of the imprisoned British pacifist Alice Wheeldon.

From Adam's list on the human impact of World War I.

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