Roses

Stephen Wall

  • Regeneration by Pat Barker
    Viking, 252 pp, £13.99, May 1991, ISBN 0 670 82876 9
  • Rose Reason by Mary Flanagan
    Bloomsbury, 388 pp, £14.99, April 1991, ISBN 0 7475 0888 7
  • Rose by Rose Boyt
    Chatto, 182 pp, £13.99, April 1991, ISBN 0 7011 3728 2

Craiglockhart Hydro – an Italianate pile near Edinburgh – opened in 1880, but it figures in literary history because it was taken over as a military hospital in 1916. Wilfred Owen was sent there, and so was Siegfried Sassoon. That their meeting, and the place itself, had a catalytic effect on Owen’s poetry has long been recognised. When, in her new novel, Pat Barker shows Sassoon and Owen discussing the diction and title of the latter’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, she is following manuscript evidence of Sassoon’s suggestions and Owen’s revisions. But although Sassoon plays a crucial role in Regeneration, he does so more as a refractory soldier and reluctant patient than as a writer; he is only one of a number of the shell-shocked who otherwise have no memorial. The real hero of the story and the main source of its considerable interest is the doctor who treated him.

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