Book Review: Pat Barker’s The Ghost Road

41d69a8nskl_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-dptopright12-18_sh30_ou01_aa115_Writing with verve and panache, Pat Barker captures England in the last months of the Great War, where W. H. R. Rivers is treating battle-scarred soldiers so that they can return to the front and fight again.

This novel is a study of W. H. R. Rivers (1864-1922), who was a British psychologist and anthropologist, best known for treating the poet Siegfried Sassoon for shell shock during the Great War.  In this novel, we see Rivers going about his work of treating his patients, and also having feverish memories of his time in Melanesia where he did anthropological work on color vision.

In Barker’s masterly fashion, River’s story is interwoven with those of fictional and non-fictional characters.  Billy Prior, a fictional character, is a patient of Rivers who volunteers to return to the front in the company of a fellow officer: the famous poet Wilfred Owen.  By now, neither Prior nor Owen believes in the war, yet they consider it their duty to fight.

This novel accurately portrays the cost of war and the ways that men and women try to cope in their daily lives.

This book is the third book and culmination of Pat Barker’s World War I trilogy (the other titles are An Eye at the Door and Regeneration). It won the Booker Prize.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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