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Pat Barker, in her Regeneration trilogy, writes about W. H. R. Rivers, one of the senior doctors at Craiglochart, a hospital for 'shell-shocked' officers in 1917. Rivers was an M.D., an anthropologist, researcher, psychiatrist, who as an army officer regarded it as his duty to send men back to the Front if they were fit for duty. Yet also a caring, compassionate man, who endeared himself to his patients. And these included Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen! So a huge opportunity for a discussion of the First World War. There are the horrors of the trenches, the attitudes of civilians, the lives of the munition workers, bombing, rationing, and, throughout, the concern of Rivers for the men who pass through his hands.
He was influential enough that there is a Rivers Centre for Traumatic Stress in Scotland at this time.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Pat Barker captures the devastating effects of the First World War on those in the front lines. Her vivid and insightful descriptions of the suffering of the survivors and, in this volume, doctors in a military hospital treating their psychological scars, are deeply moving. The device of including real historical figures such as Siegfried Sassoon, Dr. William Rivers and Wilfrid Owen heightens the realism. The articulate internal and external debates about the morality of fighting a disastrous war with no clearly defined ultimate goal or competent strategy makes the story oh, so relevant to contemporary readers.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
A beautifully written novel, the first in Barker's "Regeneration Trilogy" (the third volume won the Booker Prize). Set in a war hospital in Scotland 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. Other patients include the young poet Wilfred Owen and Billy Priot, a young man who can't eat after having been blown into the decomposing body of a German soldier. A fascinating look at the social pressure put on young men during the war, as well as the effects of the war on people and relationahips and of the treatment of the psychological scars it caused.
32 of 33 people found this review helpful