Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Ghost Road by Pat Barker

People have been suggesting that I read Pat Barker for a long time now. I saw The Ghost Road in the library recently, and noticed on the cover the little seal that proclaims it a Booker Prize winner, and this attracted me, since I usually like these books.

My first reaction when I got into the book was that I had walked into a room where everyone knew everyone else and no introductions were forthcoming. Yet I was intrigued by the characters, and there was enough information that I could follow the action without too much confusion. This is the story of several men who are recovering from having been wounded in World War I, and their journey back to the front.

Eventually I got around to looking Barker up on Wikipedia. If you’ve already read this book you know what I’m about to say, but I did NOT know this: this is book three in a trilogy! I went back and reexamined the dust jacket blurb and cover. Nowhere does it say that this is part of a trilogy; it merely mentions other books she’s written, as many blurbs do. I found this frustrating.

Am I asking too much of a publisher to let me know when a book is part three of a series? In genre fiction, series are usually very clearly marked. Even in mainstream fiction, when a book is a sequel, it’s often labeled as such. But nowhere on this book was there any evidence of this! Why would a publisher omit this information? Some series can be read in any order; this is definitely not the case with this one.

All griping aside, this is a fascinating story of World War I, told through the eyes of several characters: a doctor, an officer, and several enlisted men. It mixes fact and fiction: real historical characters appear along side totally fictional ones. It examines class issues in Britain, a topic that interests me, and provides an unflinching portrait of the horrors and futility of war. The book is more “masculine” than I typically like, but I didn’t mind. By masculine I mean that the protagonists are male, and the sex and violence are graphic. The female characters are not plentiful, but are well done. I don’t know whether the other volumes feature more women than this one does; I have a feeling they do.

For the record, the series is known as the Regeneration Trilogy. The first volume is Regeneration; the second volume is The Eye in the Door. I am going to try to get to them soon, so I can have the full picture. I can tell this is a really powerful series, and I want to appreciate it as much as possible.

Here's a review from The Guardian.
(Book 41, 2006)


Anonymous said...

i love pat barker. her standalone "double vision" is also really powerful (even given its brevity). i wish she'd put out something new!!!

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