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Alex Clark: Pat Barker

24 May 2001
Border Crossing 
by Pat Barker.
Viking, 216 pp., £16.99, April 2001, 0 670 87841 3
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... In the Regeneration trilogy, PatBarker distilled the trauma and drama of the First World War into a series of minutely observed pairings between the neurologist William Rivers and his severely shellshocked charges. The most famous of them ...

Growing up

Dinah Birch

20 April 1989
Passing on 
by Penelope Lively.
Deutsch, 210 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 233 98388 0
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The man who wasn’t there 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 158 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 86068 891 7
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The Sugar Mother 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 210 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 670 82435 6
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Give them all my love 
by Gillian Tindall.
Hutchinson, 244 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 09 173919 5
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Storm in the Citadel 
by Kate Saunders.
Cape, 293 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 224 02606 2
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... remembrance, and the sad contractions of a life in which we all find ourselves having to make do. About the unexhilarating compensations that might remain, however, it is a good deal less convincing. PatBarker has also written, with more anger and much less decorum, about the confinements that hedge us in. Her novels have all been versions of the same intense story: working-class families or, more ...

Roses

Stephen Wall

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

Frayed Edges

Tessa Hadley: Pat Barker

19 November 2015
Noonday 
by Pat Barker.
Hamish Hamilton, 272 pp., £18.99, August 2015, 978 0 241 14606 4
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... PatBarker​ has written about war, mostly the First World War, again and again. In her new novel, Noonday, the last book in a trilogy, she takes characters forged in the first war, in Life Class (2007) and ...
1 July 1982
When things of the spirit come first 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Patrick O’Brian.
Deutsch, 212 pp., £6.95, July 1982, 0 233 97462 8
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Union Street 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 266 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 9780860682820
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Lady Oracle 
by Margaret Atwood.
Virago, 346 pp., £3.50, June 1982, 0 86068 303 6
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Bodily Harm 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 302 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 224 02016 1
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Hearts: A Novel 
by Hilma Wolitzer.
Harvester, 324 pp., £6.95, June 1982, 9780710804754
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Pzyche 
by Amanda Hemingway.
Faber, 236 pp., £7.95, June 1982, 0 571 11875 5
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December Flower 
by Judy Allen.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 7156 1644 7
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... The existential commitment is too heavily dependent upon a rhetoric which mistakes its own short cuts for satisfactory solutions. The gallery of individual female portraits is also the form chosen by PatBarker for her first publication, Union Street. But it is hardly necessary to point out that the philosophical purpose of Mme de Beauvoir, and her use of the rhetoric of liberation, are very far ...

Both Sides

Lorna Sage

5 October 1995
The Ghost Road 
by Pat Barker.
Viking, 196 pp., £15, September 1995, 0 670 85489 1
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... The present novel completes PatBarker’s First World War trilogy. It ends just before the war itself ends, with the attempted crossing of the Sambre-Oise canal in which Wilfred Owen was killed. You can read it without having read ...

Invalided home

Dinah Birch

21 October 1993
The Eye in the Door 
by Pat Barker.
Viking, 280 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 0 670 84414 4
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... Working-class memory generated PatBarker’s writing. Her early fiction presented itself as a tribute to generations of suffering and survival in the industrial North-East of England. It seemed to fall into a ready-made tradition: ‘the ...

Diary

Stephen Sedley: Judges’ Lodgings

11 November 1999
... we do dine, along with the high sheriff, the bishop and the prison governor we occasionally invite interesting people to the lodgings – a privilege I have valued. Remembering that many years ago PatBarker had asked my old college friend Mick Standen, the WEA tutor-organiser for Durham, to tell her if she’d ever be a writer, I asked her and her husband David to dinner when I was sitting in the ...

The Beast on My Back

Gerald Weissmann

6 June 1996
The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 
by Allan Young.
Princeton, 327 pp., £28, March 1996, 0 691 03352 8
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... anyone’, followed by such symptoms as repetitive recall of the trauma, psychological numbing, amnesia, insomnia or other forms of automatic arousal. Readers of Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon or PatBarker should not be surprised that this description of PTSD turns out to have a strong resemblance to the description of shell-shock that has become part of the modern literary tradition: the ...

Several Doses of Wendy

Robert Baird: David Means

10 August 2016
Hystopia 
by David Means.
Faber, 352 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 33011 9
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... book, ‘You have all of these folks drifting around with the pivotal point of their lives buried, not sure if they should be digging around.’ In this respect, the novel lives in the long shadow of PatBarker, Tim O’Brien and especially Ernest Hemingway, who is credited by Singleton with capturing ‘a new way of thinking and speaking that came from what was left out, from the things war had ...
4 December 1986
The Death of the Body 
by C.K. Stead.
Collins, 192 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 00 223067 4
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Kramer’s Goats 
by Rudolf Nassauer.
Peter Owen, 188 pp., £10.50, August 1986, 0 7206 0659 4
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Mefisto 
by John Banville.
Secker, 234 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780436032660
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The Century’s Daughter 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 284 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780860686064
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Love Unknown 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 202 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 241 11922 7
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... of specification)’ which seemed to Henry James ‘the supreme virtue of a novel – the merit on which all its other merits ... helplessly and submissively depend’. Unfortunately, that one – PatBarker’s The Century’s Daughter – is also a consciously ‘working-class’ fiction whose claim to reality-status might be found off-puttingly vehement. Still, her book, risking as it does a ...

Brute Nature

Rosemary Dinnage

6 March 1997
Masters of Bedlam: The Transformation of the Mad-Doctoring Trade 
by Andrew Scull, Charlotte Mackenzie and Nicholas Hervey.
Princeton, 363 pp., £23, February 1997, 0 691 03411 7
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... survivors of the trenches who brought psychology into the neurological wards. Masters of Bedlam’s story reminds us just how innovative was the forgotten psychiatrist W.H.R. Rivers, revived by PatBarker in her magnificent trilogy about the Great War, and how Maudsleyan were most of his contemporaries. Whether, in any case, the therapeutic answer to serious mental illness, once dreamed of ...

Elegy for Gurney

Sarah Howe: Robert Edric

4 December 2008
In Zodiac Light 
by Robert Edric.
Doubleday, 368 pp., £16.99, July 2008, 978 0 385 61258 6
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... The narrator, Irvine, is a sympathetic but reserved young doctor charged with Gurney’s care. The novel’s delicate counterpoint of psychiatrist and war-damaged poet invites comparison with PatBarker’s Regeneration (1991). But whereas Barker was concerned with the immediate ethical dilemma of returning mentally shattered men to the trenches, Edric is interested in the war’s lingering ...

Courage, mon amie

Terry Castle: Disquiet on the Western Front

4 April 2002
... fascinated by him – and the Great War – since I first heard of him, at the age of six or so. I’m now 48. Somebody should write about women obsessed with the First World War. Everybody knows PatBarker, of course, but there’s also Lyn Macdonald – a former BBC producer whose dense, addictive, exhaustively researched oral histories of the war (1914: The Days of Hope, 1915: The Death of ...

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