by Pat Barker

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“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 hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World War I. His reason: the war was a senseless slaughter. He was officially classified "mentally unsound" and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital. There a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. William Rivers, set about restoring Sassoon’s “sanity” and sending him back to the trenches. This novel tells what happened as only a novel can. It is a war saga in which not a shot is fired. It is a story of a battle for a man's mind in which only the reader can decide who is the victor, who the vanquished, and who the victim.
One of the most amazing feats of fiction of our time, Regneration has been hailed by critics across the globe.  More than one hundred years since World War I, this book is as timely and relevant as ever.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101042014
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/01/1993
Series: Contemporary Fiction, Plume
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 189,299
File size: 448 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Pat Barker has earned a place in the first rank of contemporary British writers with such novels as Union StreetRegeneration (shortlisted for Britain's prestigious Booker Prize and chosen by the New York Times as one of the four best novels of 1992), The Eye in the Door (winner of the 1993 Guardian fiction prize), The Ghost Road (winner of the 1995 Booker Prize), and Noonday. Pat Barker lives in Durham, England.


Durham, England

Date of Birth:

May 8, 1943

Place of Birth:

Thornaby-on-Tees, England


London School of Economics; Durham University

Read an Excerpt

Part 1

Finished with the War A Soldier’s Declaration

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.
I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.
I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.
I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.
On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize.
S. Sassoon

July 1917

Bryce waited for Rivers to finish reading before he spoke again. ‘The “S” stands for “Siegfried”. Apparently, he thought that was better left out.’
‘And I’m sure he was right.’ Rivers folded the paper and ran his fingertips along the edge. ‘So they’re sending him here?’
Bryce smiled. ‘Oh, I think it’s rather more specific than that. They’re sending him to you.’
Rivers got up and walked across to the window. It was a fine day, and many of the patients were in the hospital grounds, watching a game of tennis. He heard the pok-pok of rackets, and a cry of frustration as a ball smashed into the net. ‘I suppose he is — “shell-shocked”?’
‘According to the Board, yes.’
‘It just occurs to me that a diagnosis of neurasthenia might not be inconvenient confronted with this.’ He held up the Declaration.
‘Colonel Langdon chaired the Board. He certainly seems to think he is.’
‘Langdon doesn’t believe in shell-shock.’
Bryce shrugged. ‘Perhaps Sassoon was gibbering all over the floor.’
“‘Funk, old boy.” I know Langdon.’ Rivers came back to his chair and sat down. ‘He doesn’t sound as if he’s gibbering, does he?’
Bryce said carefully, ‘Does it matter what his mental state is? Surely it’s better for him to be here than in prison?’
‘Better for him, perhaps. What about the hospital? Can you imagine what our dear Director of Medical Services is going to say, when he finds out we’re sheltering “conchies” as well as cowards, shirkers, scrimshankers and degenerates? We’ll just have to hope there’s no publicity.’
‘There’s going to be, I’m afraid. The Declaration’s going to be read out in the House of Commons next week.’
Rivers made a dismissive gesture.
‘Yes, well, I know. But it still means the press.’
‘And the minister will say that no disciplinary action has been taken, because Mr Sassoon is suffering from a severe mental breakdown, and therefore not responsible for his actions. I’m not sure I’d prefer that to prison.’
‘I don’t suppose he was offered the choice. Will you take him?’
‘You mean I am being offered a choice?’
‘In view of your case load, yes.’
Rivers took off his glasses and swept his hand down across his eyes. ‘I suppose they have remembered to send the file?’

Sassoon leant out of the carriage window, still half-expecting to see Graves come pounding along the platform, looking even more dishevelled than usual. But further down the train, doors had already begun to slam, and the platform remained empty.
The whistle blew. Immediately, he saw lines of men with grey muttering faces clambering up the ladders to face the guns. He blinked them away.
The train began to move. Too late for Robert now. Prisoner arrives without escort, Sassoon thought, sliding open the carriage door.
By arriving an hour early he’d managed to get a window seat. He began picking his way across to it through the tangle of feet. An elderly vicar, two middle-aged men, both looking as if they’d done rather well out of the war, a young girl and an older woman, obviously travelling together. The train bumped over a point. Everybody rocked and swayed, and Sassoon, stumbling, almost fell into the vicar’s lap. He mumbled an apology and sat down. Admiring glances, and not only from the women. Sassoon turned to look out of the window, hunching his shoulder against them all.
After a while he stopped pretending to look at the smoking chimneys of Liverpool’s back streets and closed his eyes. He needed to sleep, but instead Robert’s face floated in front of him, white and twitching as it had been last Sunday, almost a week ago now, in the lounge of the Exchange Hotel.

For a moment, looking up to find that khaki-clad figure standing just inside the door, he thought he was hallucinating again.
‘Robert, what on earth are you doing here?’ He jumped up and ran across the lounge. ‘Thank God you’ve come.’
‘I got myself passed fit.’
‘Robert, no.’
‘What else could I do? After getting this.’ Graves dug into his tunic pocket and produced a crumpled piece of paper. ‘A covering letter would have been nice.’
‘I wrote.’
‘No, you didn’t, Sass. You just sent me this. Couldn’t you at least have talked about it first?’
‘I thought I’d written.’
They sat down, facing each other across a small table. Cold northern light streamed in through the high windows, draining Graves’s face of the little colour it had.
‘Sass, you’ve got to give this up.’
‘Give it up? You don’t think I’ve come this far, do you, just to give in now?’
‘Look, you’ve made your protest. For what it’s worth, I agree with every word of it. But you’ve had your say. There’s no point making a martyr of yourself.’
‘The only way I can get publicity is to make them court-martial me.’
‘They won’t do it.’
‘Oh, yes, they will. It’s just a matter of hanging on.’
‘You’re in no state to stand a court-martial.’ Graves clasped his clenched fist. ‘If I had Russell here now, I’d shoot him.’
‘It was my idea.’
‘Oh, pull the other one. And even if it was, do you think anybody’s going to understand it? They’ll just say you’ve got cold feet.’
‘Look, Robert, you think exactly as I do about the war, and you do ... nothing. All right, that’s your choice. But don’t come here lecturing me about cold feet. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.’

Now, on the train going to Craiglockhart, it still seemed the hardest thing. He shifted in his seat and sighed, looking out over fields of wheat bending to the wind. He remembered the silvery sound of shaken wheat, the shimmer of light on the stalks. He’d have given anything to be out there, away from the stuffiness of the carriage, the itch and constriction of his uniform.

On that Sunday they’d taken the train to Formby and spent the afternoon wandering aimlessly along the beach. A dull, wintry-looking sun cast their shadows far behind them, so that every gesture either of them made was mimicked and magnified.
‘They won’t let you make a martyr of yourself, Sass. You should have accepted the Board.’
The discussion had become repetitive. For perhaps the fourth time, Sassoon said, ‘If I hold out long enough, there’s nothing else they can do.’
‘There’s a lot they can do.’ Graves seemed to come to a decision. ‘As a matter of fact, I’ve been pulling a few strings on your behalf.’
Sassoon smiled to hide his anger. ‘Good. If you’ve been exercising your usual tact, that ought to get me at least two years.’
‘They won’t court-martial you.’
In spite of himself, Sassoon began to feel afraid. ‘What, then?’
‘Shut you up in a lunatic asylum for the rest of the war.’
‘And that’s the result of your string-pulling, is it? Thanks.’
‘No, the result of my string-pulling is to get you another Board. You must take it this time.’
‘You can’t put people in lunatic asylums just like that. You have to have reasons.’
‘They’ve got reasons.’
‘Yes, the Declaration. Well, that doesn’t prove me insane.’
‘And the hallucinations? The corpses in Piccadilly?’
A long silence. ‘I had rather hoped my letters to you were private.’
‘I had to persuade them to give you another Board.’
‘They won’t court-martial me?’
‘No. Not in any circumstances. And if you go on refusing to be boarded, they will put you away.’
‘You know, Robert, I wouldn’t believe this from anybody else. Will you swear it’s true?’
‘On the Bible?’
Graves held up an imaginary Bible and raised his right hand. ‘I swear.’
Their shadows stretched out behind them, black on the white sand. For a moment Sassoon still hesitated. Then, with an odd little gasp, he said, ‘All right then, I’ll give way.’

In the taxi, going to Craiglockhart, Sassoon began to feel frightened. He looked out of the window at the crowded pavements of Princes Street, thinking he was seeing them for the first and last time. He couldn’t imagine what awaited him at Craiglockhart, but he didn’t for a moment suppose the inmates were let out.
He glanced up and found the taxi-driver watching him in the mirror. All the local people must know the name of the hospital, and what it was for. Sassoon’s hand went up to his chest and began pulling at a loose thread where his MC ribbon had been.

For conspicuous gallantry during a raid on the enemy’s trenches. He remained for 1 hours under rifle and bomb fire collecting and bringing in our wounded. Owing to his courage and determination, all the killed and wounded were brought in.
Reading the citation, it seemed to Rivers more extraordinary than ever that Sassoon should have thrown the medal away. Even the most extreme pacifist could hardly be ashamed of a medal awarded for saving life. He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. He’d been working on the file for over an hour, but, although he was now confident he knew all the facts, he was no closer to an understanding of Sassoon’s state of mind. If anything, Graves’s evidence to the Board - with its emphasis on hallucinations - seemed to suggest a full-blown psychosis rather than neurasthenia. And yet there was no other evidence for that. Misguided the Declaration might well be, but it was not deluded, illogical or incoherent. Only the throwing away of the medal still struck him as odd. That surely had been the action of a man at the end of his tether.
Well, we’ve all been there, he thought. The trouble was, he was finding it difficult to examine the evidence impartially. He wanted Sassoon to be ill. Admitting this made him pause. He got up and began pacing the floor of his room, from door to window and back again. He’d only ever encountered one similar case, a man who’d refused to go on fighting on religious grounds. Atrocities took place on both sides, he’d said. There was nothing to choose between the British and the Germans.
The case had given rise to heated discussions in the MO’s common room — about the freedom of the individual conscience in wartime, and the role of the army psychiatrist in ‘treating’ a man who refused to fight. Rivers, listening to those arguments, had been left in no doubt of the depth and seriousness of the divisions. The controversy had died down only when the patient proved to be psychotic. That was the crux of the matter. A man like Sassoon would always be trouble, but he’d be a lot less trouble if he were ill.
Rivers was roused from these thoughts by the crunch of tyres on gravel. He reached the window in time to see a taxi draw up, and a man, who from his uniform could only be Sassoon, get out. After paying the driver, Sassoon stood for a moment, looking up at the building. Nobody arriving at Craiglockhart for the first time could fail to be daunted by the sheer gloomy, cavernous bulk of the place. Sassoon lingered on the drive for a full minute after the taxi had driven away, then took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and ran up the steps.
Rivers turned away from the window, feeling almost ashamed of having witnessed that small, private victory over fear.


Light from the window behind Rivers’s desk fell directly on to Sassoon’s face. Pale skin, purple shadows under the eyes. Apart from that, no obvious signs of nervous disorder. No twitches, jerks, blinks, no repeated ducking to avoid a long-exploded shell. His hands, doing complicated things with cup, saucer, plate, sandwiches, cake, sugar tongs and spoon, were perfectly steady. Rivers raised his own cup to his lips and smiled. One of the nice things about serving afternoon tea to newly arrived patients was that it made so many neurological tests redundant.
So far he hadn’t looked at Rivers. He sat with his head slightly averted, a posture that could easily have been taken for arrogance, though Rivers was more inclined to suspect shyness. The voice was slightly slurred, the flow of words sometimes hesitant, sometimes rushed. A disguised stammer, perhaps, but a life-long stammer, Rivers thought, not the recent, self-conscious stammer of the neurasthenic.
‘While I remember, Captain Graves rang to say he’ll be along some time after dinner. He sent his apologies for missing the train.’
‘He is still coming?’
Sassoon looked relieved. ‘Do you know, I don’t think Graves’s caught a train in his life? Unless somebody was there to put him on it.’
‘We were rather concerned about you.’
‘In case the lunatic went missing?’
‘I wouldn’t put it quite like that.’
‘I was all right. I wasn’t even surprised, I thought he’d slept in. He’s been doing a ... a lot of rushing round on my behalf recently. You’ve no idea how much work goes into rigging a Medical Board.’
Rivers pushed his spectacles up on to his forehead and massaged the inner corners of his eyes. ‘No, I don’t suppose I have. You know this may sound naive but ... to me ... the accusation that a Medical Board has been rigged is quite a serious one.’
‘I’ve no complaints. I was dealt with in a perfectly fair and reasonable way. Probably better than I deserved.’
‘What kind of questions did they ask?’
Sassoon smiled. ‘Don’t you know?’

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Regeneration 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AP World History Review: Horrors of War Regeneration, a historical fiction book by Pat Barker, recounts the experiences of the patients in Craiglockhart War Hospital and their doctor, Dr. Rivers. Rivers job is to help his patients recover through helping them recount their war memories. Pat Barker uses the memories of his characters to reveal the horrors caused by World War I. Regeneration is a string book about opinions and overcoming obstacles. Dr. River’s role is to help his patients overcome the obstacle of their rears and horrors that they experienced in World War I, but in doing so is forced to listen to and picture the gruesome tales. These experiences therapy sessions in the end of the book change the overall opinion the River’s has on the war. Pat Barker’s characters are in a wide variety, but have a similarity, they all have a specific dislike of the war, and are afraid to return to it. Pat Barker successfully displays the horrors of the many veterans of the Great War.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are an ethical man, how do you change another man's mind about the war he has been fighting, a man recognized for heroic action and his concern for his troops? And a man who is a well known poet--whose words always have meaning, and are not part of Orwellian Newspeak? Barker's novel effectively dramatizes the discussions Dr. W.H. R. Rivers may have had with poet Siegfried Sassoon in order to send him back to the trenches of WWI. Because Sassoon had publicly accused 'those who have the power of ending the war' of prolonging it, his friends, particularly Robert Graves, arranged and encouraged his admission to the psychiatric hospital rather than punitive disciplinary action. Regeneration has been labeled an anti-war novel--and it is hard to be pro- war ever after the fact when reading of the realities of trench warfare during WWI. More important, the novel's presentation of the dilemmas posed to both doctor and patient raise questions for us about the rationale for war, the role of politicians and businessmen and the public's sheeplike acquiesence, and the morality of 'brainwashing' or other efforts to change people's minds. The great irony is what happened after the book's coverage of events: Sassoon returned to the war, and unlike so many of the young poets who fought in it, he lived to old age--but did not write as much poetry in his middle years. And Robert Graves, who appears as a good manipulator of people and events, lived also to old age and greater fame than Sassoon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have finished Pat Barker's work, and still find that I'm drawn to it. When reading the book, I felt I was in 1917, walking through the hospital with the characters. I came away knowing Dr. Rivers, and wanting to talk more with Seigfried. I've read about WWI, but Regeneration made me feel that I was there. As a boy I lived next to a WWI German soldier, who briefly talked to me about his side of the trenches. This book gave me a glimpse at the horror he must have witnessed.
vibrantminds on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the midst of WWI a combat officer, Siegfried Sassoon, denounces the war and finds himself in a psychiatric hospital under the care of Dr. William Rivers, psychiatrist. The relationship between the two is quite intriguing, both no longer agree with the war but must come to terms with it. Rivers in that he must either find his patients fit or unfit to return to duty and Sassoon in his attitude to succumb to his responsibilities and return to the fighting. Several other patients are explored as well and the nightmare unfolds as to what war can do to an individual. A very moving book that puts the effects of war in perspective. (Book 1 of 3)
mbmackay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A classy novel about the horrors of World War I told with a focus on a group of literary/poetic officers as they and others are treated for shell shock. This oblique approach seems to capture the carnage and its effect on soldiers involved even more strongly than any attempt to directly describe the futility of the military tactics. Read March 2011.
labfs39 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Normally a cure implies that the patient will no longer engage in behaviour that is clearly self-destructive. But in present circumstances, recovery meant the resumption of activities that were not merely self-destructive but positively suicidal.Such are the conclusions of Dr. Rivers, a psychiatrist working with shell-shocked soldiers in 1917 England. His most recent patient is Siegfried Sassoon, a poet and decorated soldier, who has written a declaration calling the war a senseless slaughter without a clear objective. This is enough to land Sassoon in Craiglockhart War Hospital as a patient until he can be cured and returned to the front. Dr. Rivers is treating many patients: a man so traumatized by a gruesome accident that he will never recover, a doctor now unable to stand the sight of blood, a young man unable to remember what happened that caused his breakdown. But there is something about Sassoon and his articulate condemnation of the war that causes a crisis of conscience for Dr. Rivers. Bits. The scold's bridle used to silence recalcitrant women in the Middle Ages. More recently, on American slaves. And yet on the ward, listening to the list of Callan's battles, he'd felt that nothing Callan could say could have been more powerful than his silence. Later, {after treatment by Dr. Yealland forces Callan to begin speaking again}, Rivers had felt that he was witnessing the silencing of a human being. Indeed, Yealland had come very close to saying just that. 'You must speak, but I shall not listen to anything you have to say.'...Just as Yealland silenced the unconscious protest of his patients by removing the paralysis, the deafness, the blindness, the muteness that stood between them and the war, so, in an infinitely more gentle way, he silenced his patients; for the stammerings, the nightmares, the tremors, the memory lapses, of officers were just as much unwitting protest as the grosser maladies of the men.This novel fascinated me on so many levels. There is the philosophical, but very real arguments about the morality of the war; the psychiatric effects of war trauma on soldiers; the medical ethics of experimenting on oneself or using brutal methods; the use of mythology in the treatment of trauma; and the social effects as homosexuality begins to be acknowledged in British society.He distrusted the implication that nurturing, even when done by a man, remains female, as if the ability were in some way borrowed, or even stolen, from women-a sort of moral equivalent of couvade. If that were true, then there was really very little hope....Rivers had been touched by the way in which young men, some of them not yet twenty, spoke about feeling like fathers to their men. Though when you looked at what they did. Worrying about socks, boots, blisters, food, hot drinks. And that perpetually harried expression of theirs... It was the look of people who are totally responsible for lives they have no power to save.But what really struck me about this novel is that it is based on actual people, declarations, and treatments. In a brief Author's Note at the end of the book, which I found helpful to read first, the reader is told which characters were real people and cites the sources for the various methods of treatment which Drs. Rivers and Yealland used. On the spectrum between fact and fiction, the author skews to the actual, and I was amazed at how deftly she brought the historical to life. [Regeneration] is the first in a trilogy that I look forward to continuing. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the psychology of war.
cissa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting novel about the beginnings, in WW1, of the treatment of what's now called PTSD.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is 1917 and WWI is still going strong. The Craiglockhart War Hospital is an institution where officers suffering from very serious cases of shell shock and deemed mentally unsound go to be healed so they can return to the front and continue the vicious battle against the Germans. Dr. William Rivers¿a brilliant psychiatrist at the institution¿has a cure which is at once successful while being highly unusual for his time. Instead of having recourse to violent and painful courses of therapy prevalent in other hospitals, such as submitting the patients to painful humiliation tactics and high voltage electric shocks, he helps his patients cure themselves by encouraging them to face their fears and the horrors they have witnessed in battle instead of attempting to repress them. Even with the advances in psychology brought on by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, such an approach would have still been especially novel in the mainstream, at a time when men were conditioned and expected to be impervious to fear, never acknowledge weaknesses, and generally keep their emotions in check. Dr. Rivers doesn't question the inherent contradiction in the fact that he is expected to bring these men back to a balanced mental state so that they can in turn continue fighting in suicidal missions in a war with countless casualties. But things start changing for him when he comes in contact with Siegfried Sassoon, a decorated war hero who has decided to take a stand by writing a declaration which condemns the continuation of what he is convinced is a war of aggression and meaningless slaughter. Sassoon's hopes of being court-marshalled for his insubordination and thus creating noise and a public outcry around his cause are dashed when he is instead declared mentally unstable¿precisely to avoid attracting attention to the issue¿and sent to Craiglockhart and Dr. Rivers to be 'cured'. Our good psychiatrist quickly appraises that Sassoon's actions stem from true conviction, and that the best he can do in his case is to help his patient come to accept that he has no other choice than to return to the front, since any further efforts on Sassoon's part to continue campaigning against the war will simply be interpreted as the actions of a man who is mentally unsound. From the beginning, Siegfried Sassoon, a man of great culture and a published poet, makes no bones about his sexual orientation. He makes mention of an indirect connections to Oscar Wilde and his veneration for Edward Carpenter, a socialist poet, pacifist, and gay activist who's book [7093810::The Intermediate Sex] has been a great influence in helping him find his true identity. There is a running theme in the novel, which is the question of what constitutes 'real' and 'acceptable' manifestations of manhood in a time of war. The question of sexual orientation is intrinsically linked to those concerns, as is best expressed in the following excerpt, taken from a conversation between Rivers and Sassoon, who are discussing the prevailing attitudes toward homosexuality:Sassoon: 'I thought things were getting better.'Rivers: 'I think they were. Before the war. Slightly. But it's not very likely, is it, that any movement towards greater tolerance would persist in wartime? After all, in war, you've got this enormous emphasis on love between men¿comradeship¿and everybody approves. But at the same time there's always this little niggle of anxiety. Is it the right kind of love? Well, one of the ways you make sure it's the right kind is to make it crystal clear what the penalties for the other kind are.'This is a powerful novel and many of the themes at it's core, such as the manifestations of the instinct for self-preservation and what constitutes sanity and mental instability are weighty stuff, and the brilliance of Pat Barker's approach is that she manages to present her subject with a light and even humorous touch, with brilliant dialogue that is absol
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Regeneration is the first book in Pat Barker¿s World War I trilogy. Siegfried Sasson was an historical figure, a noted poet and decorated war hero who penned the Soldier¿s Declaration - a refusal to continue serving as a British officer based on the moral grounds that the war was a misguided effort contributing to the senseless slaughter of men. Spared a court martial, Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland where the famous psychiatrist Dr. William Rivers was assigned the task of ¿curing¿ him from insanity in order to send him back to France and the front line.The novel, however, is less about Sassoon and more about the psychological effects of war. Barker shows us the shell-shocked and mentally damaged patients through the eyes (mostly) of Dr. Rivers. Billy Prior arrives at the hospital unable to speak. A young soldier by the name of Burns is so traumatized by his experiences he is unable to eat without vomiting. The reader meets yet another soldier who is ¿paralyzed¿ even though his spinal cord is physically undamaged. In sensitively revealing the psychic injuries of the characters, Barker asks the essential question: Is war worth the toll it takes on those who sacrifice for it? Even Rivers, who is tasked with restoring men to duty, begins to question the morality of war.Pat Barker¿s strength is in revealing the emotions of her characters without being maudlin. Often she employs dialogue between doctor and patient to reveal the the horror of war and its impact.Regeneration is a war novel which is set not on the battlefield, but inside the minds of its characters - many of whom are historical figures. I found it to be a slow start - it is a drama that slowly reels the reader into the story. Regeneration is written with compassion and a subtle tension which reveals a sometimes barbaric and disturbing period in the history of psychiatry. Barker writes with honesty and has created a novel which pricks at the conscience.Regeneration was long-listed for the Booker Prize in 1991.Recommended for those readers interested in historical fiction, particularly during World War I. Those interested in psychology will also find this novel a fascinating character study.
PennyAnne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have a long-held affection for the British WWI poets and that is what interested me in this book which takes real-life events and mixes them with fiction to tell a story about WWI and its terrible physical and psychological toll. A book which moves slowly but which draws the reader in. I was most taken by the way the author provided a window into the emotional toll of the war through her sparse descriptive style. A great book, number one in a trilogy - I must hunt out the other books in the series.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't overstate how tedious and oblique this book was. I saw on the front 'Booker Prize Winner', and as I have generally rated these books quite highly I bought it. Unfortunately it was only the author who won the prize - not this particular book. I can only assume the book that did win was a whole lot better than this one.Obviously, given the subject matter, and the fact that it 'resurrects heroes' (to quote the blurb on the back), it's going to attract a certain amount of learned attention, as well as sentimental adulation. It wasn't entertaining, though. If I wanted to read about World War I poets I would prefer to read a reference book.
CBJames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Regeneration by Pat Barker combines the stories of real and fictional people to create a compelling account of life in a psychiatric hospital for British soldiers during the first world war. Barker uses the true stories of poets Siegfried Sassoon and Owen Wilson, who met and worked together during their stay at Craiglockhart Hospital, Dr. William Rivers their psychiatrist and the fictional Billy Prior. The three soldiers, along with the other patients in the hospital, are all officers who have all suffered nervous breakdowns to varying degrees. It is Dr. Rivers's job to cure them and return the to service, either back to the front in France or to some other work. The novel is a true ensemble of characters; each takes a significant turn at center stage and each is fascinating in his own way. While there is no single narrative thread to the novel, the psychological profiles of the four main characters that emerge and their struggles to regain a sense of normalcy, to recover from their experience enough to return to it, make for compelling reading. Whether Sassoon has suffered a breakdown is not clear. He is placed in the hospital to save the army from embarrassment. A true war hero, decorated for bravery after saving the lives of many wounded men, he joins with several prominent pacifists and publishes a declaration against the war. Friends of his convince the army that he has had a breakdown and should be treated instead of court martialled. (This will save the army a good deal of embarrassement as well. ) Dr. Rivers treats him, as he does Owen and Prior, through basic Freudian techniques, the talking cure. Nightmares are problems for all of the soldiers in the hospital, so there is plenty of dream analysis in the book, all of it interesting reading. Many of the officers in Craiglockhart want to be cured so they can go back to the battle, because they want to return to their men whom they feel guilty about leaving and because they have difficulty dealing with civilians who do not understand their experience. Billy Prior meets a local girl during the times he is allowed to leave the hospital and a romance develops. She knows that he is a patient, that he has had some sort of breakdown, but he does not tell her the details. He keeps her innocent of his experience so that her innocence can be his place of refuge. He loves her because she is not a part of the war; but this fact also separates them, prevents him from opening up to her in a way that would make a deeper bond possible. Dr. Rivers becomes friends with many of his patients and often visits them after they leave the hospital. He is older than his many of his patients, actually old enough to be their fathers which makes it even easier for the doctor-patient relationship to become father-patient. His techniques and his manner with his patients work so well and are so admirable that I began to reconsider my own general skepticism about psychiatry. The men in Craiglockhart are so well looked after that it becomes tempting to read Regeneration as a commentary on how mental illness is viewed in the military today. Sassoon can have a 'breakdown' and return to battle as an officer in charge with no apparent loss of face while in the U.S. today we regularly hear stories about soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who won't seek counseling for fear of repercussions from their superior officers that might end their careers. (How does this attitude contribute to the high suicide rate amoung U.S. soldiers today seems like a questions we're not really allowed to ask if we want to "support the troops.") But towards the end of Regeneration Dr. Rivers goes to a psychiatric hospital in London where he witnesses a different sort of treatment. The Doctor there treats his patients through prolonged sessions of electric shock. A patient who is mute has shock treatments applied to his throat, neck and mouth, until he is forced to speak again. The patient is speaking by the end of the near day-long s
kewing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The horrors of WWI without actually being in the trenches at the front. Barker approaches the war through the interiors of historical figures (Sigfried Sasson, Wilfred Owen, WHR Rivers); the psychological affects of war are more powerfully drawn through the treatment in a Scottish military hospital and through Sasson and Owen's poetry than at the front.
Cariola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautifully written novel, the first in Barker's "Regeneration Trilogy" (the third volume won the Booker Prize). Set in a war hospital in Engliand during World War I, the story revolves around several patients and physicians, including the poet Siegfried Sassoon. After serving honorably, Sassoon wrote an anti-war statement, which he asked an MP to read in session. His friend and fellow officer Robert Graves, knowing that Sassoon would be facing a court martial, claims the statement was due to battle fatigue and has him sent to Craiglockhaven for treatment. Dr. Rivers's task is to get Sassoon to agree to return to the front. A fascinating look at the social pressure put on young men during the war, as well as the effects of the war and of the treatment of the psychological scars it caused.I listened to this one on audio, read wonderfully by Peter Firth, and I will be moving on to the next two volumes, [The Eye in the Door] and [The Ghost Road].
mirrordrum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
an amazing book. i've read it, that is to say, listened to it as i can no longer read, perhaps 10 times and just finished it again. the narration by peter firth is outstanding and nuanced. barker is a master at dialogue and for me that elevates this book to greatness. the characters are finely drawn through description but, for me, even more so by their interchanges.
PIER50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written and interesting book. However, I think it needs to be read as part of the trilogy (I haven't yet) to fully appreciate it. I found myself getting to the end and thinking 'OK, now what?' There are some disturbing idetails about the treatment used on some of the soldiers to "cure" them of various problems they aquired in the trenches, like losing their voice etc. The section on repeated electric shocks to do this certainly makes you think!
perlle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Somewhat tedious, but with some good insights.
rennerra on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Outstanding. One of the best WWI things I've ever read. Hard to believe a woman could get in the mind of men like this. This blend of fact and fiction is what I'd like to do.
redcedar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
an unlikely read for me (i don't tend towards books about world war 1), regeneration turned out to be a heartbreaking and struggling story about the lives of soldiers during this most horrible of wars. focussed on the lives of war poets siegfried sassoon and wilfred owen, pat barker fictionalizes the lives of these very real men during their time in one of the military psychiatric hospitals. the war stories and their resulting psychoses are rending portrayals of what life was like during the heyday of trench warfare - and how a generation of men were destroyed by the aspirations of their nations' leaders. a great and moving read.
AnonymousAPStudent More than 1 year ago
AP World History Book Review: A Fascinating Book Regeneration is a fascinating book because it is a war story that uses fictional characters to better tell the story. Regeneration is a great way to learn about what the soldiers who fought during World War 1 went through, and it sheds a light on a few of the soldiers’ different rehabilitation processes. You will not want to this book down, as it tells a fascinating story of a soldier who believed that the war was a senseless slaughter, and when he told his commanding officers, they sent him to a war hospital. Regeneration talks about how the soldier was mentally stable, and since the doctors could not find anything wrong with him, they sent him back into the war. Pat Barker wrote this book because she wanted to explain how war changes people. She talks about many different patients at the war hospital and how they were affected by World War 1. Some of the patients were mentally unstable, while others were physically disabled. Pat Barker wrote the book as if she was standing right there when it all happened. Overall, Regeneration is a great way to learn about war in a truly fascinating way. If you love learning about war, but hate reading nonfiction books, then this book is perfect for you.
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