Sunday, September 23, 2007

JOHN CHUCKMAN REVIEW: PAT BARKER'S REGENERATION TRILOGY

PAT BARKER'S REGENERATION TRILOGY REVIEWED BY JOHN CHUCKMAN, April 6, 2005


The Regeneration Trilogy is both wonderful and disappointing, an odd combination of characteristics for a set of novels, but then the First World War itself was characterized by heroic exhilaration and utter dispair, by encrusted tradition and unanticipated revolution, by invention and backwardness.

Ms Barker takes us to an institution, a quiet and somewhat remote place, seemingly safe from the savagery of the Western Front, where damaged men are sent in hopes of recovery. She quickly has us involved in several fascinating characters, the full extent of whose experiences she only gradually reveals. Most interestingly, the characters of the men themselves are only gradually revealed, as often to our horror as satisfaction.

After reading the first volume, I could hardly wait for the second. It was the third volume I found disappointing. The disappointment comes through what she does with characters we have become intensely interested in, but I'll not reveal any details and leave it to new readers to see whether they agree.

The characterizations of the first two volumes are wonderful (although I am not a great fan of mixing real people in with fictional characters, the practice does not feature too heavily), and Ms. Barker gives us a remarkable sense of what that terrible war meant, particularly in ordinary lives on the home front.

Ms. Barker's trilogy is highly recommended for those interested in history, students of human psychology, and those who enjoy good writing and a gripping story.

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