Regeneration - Pat Barker Thank you for this book, Dawn!!!!! Thank you, Jeanette, for bringing it to my door. Dawn, you should soon get The Housekeeper and the Professor from me. :0)


I am "enjoying" this read, if one can speak of enjoying anything about the horrors of the trenches of WW1 warfare. Although none of the book takes place there in the trenches you certainly see the repercussions on the people who have been there. You do see their nightmares and the physical and psychological damage the war has wrought on these men.....and do remember that the shell-shocked patients one encounters within the covers of this book are the lucky ones, the survivors of the Battle of the Somme!

Although this is a book of historical fiction it is based on real people and events. It is the first of author Pat Barker's World War I trilogy. The second book is The Eye in the Door and the third The Ghost Road. Renowned and groundbreaking psychologist/anthropologist Dr. William H. Rivers, Captain Brock and poets Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Wilfred Owen all existed. They are central characters of this book. In 1917 Siegfried Sassoon refused to continue his service as a British officer. His "Declaration" of July 1917 states:

I am making this statement as an act of willful 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 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….
(page 3)

Sassoon had hoped that through a public court-martial the continuation of the war would come to be debated, but his friend Robert Graves instead brought it about that Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. He was treated by Dr. Rivers. Sassoon was not a pacifist. His religion did not forbid him to fight. He did not think all wars were wrong, and he was indeed a man of great courage. He was a decorated war hero.

The book fills your head with questions. Who is sane? Who is crazy? Should one fight? Should one abstain? How do you treat the psychologically damaged? And should you treat them, the soldiers, so you can send them back out to fight some more? What does warfare do to men and their sense of manliness? What is the impact on women? And how are our behaviors warped by war? Do the damages wrought stop at the end of the war? Is pacifism the answer? All of these questions are brought to focus through the author’s talent in blending these real people and events with some additional fictional characters. There is an Author’s Note at the end that clarifies what is fact and what is fiction.

Why only three stars? I would have appreciated a more thorough discussion of what exactly Sassoon wished to be done to stop the war. He was not court-martialed, so not much came of his “Declaration”! I found the theme of different methods for treating those shell-shocked very distressing. The theme concerning homosexuality left me unmoved. What I appreciated most was the portrayal of Dr. Rivers. Did he make the shell-shocked more mentally sound? Psychologically, who changed most – the patients or Dr. Rivers? There isn’t a smidgen of happiness in this book. Just a word of warning.

Please see Dawn’s wonderful review here:
There you will find interesting links about the Craiglockhart War Hospital.

I will continue with more books on the "Great War":
A Long Long Way
Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War
The Absolutist
A Farewell to Arms
Beauty And The Sorrow
Three Day Road

I have read so many books about WW2. Now it is time for WW1. Of course, All Quiet on the Western Front has always been the book that I have so associated with this war. It is outstanding. Maybe it is time for a reread?