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Stephen Barker

Pat Barker's "Regeneration Trilogy"

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Stephen Barker

I believe this Trilogy to be the most harrowing, original, delicate and unforgettable novel of recent times. Birdsong reads rather vapid in comparison. Do you agree?

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Ken Lees

No, I don't agree. Whilst I thought that the first book in the trilogy was excellent, I was disappointed with the next two. I'm not sure why, perhaps I didn't find the characters quite as believable, or maybe it was just that it seemed that the subject was drifting away from the War.

If I was to choose a novel that makes my hair stand on end each time I read it, Birdsong would be my automatic choice.

Ken

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Sue Light

For me the Regeneration trilogy is by far the best - I can read it through again and again and gain something different from it each time. I'm not sure that it can be easily compared with 'Birdsong,' - Faulks has written a book with a lot of fast moving action graphically described, while I feel 'Regeneration' is examining time and relationships in a way that is likely to appeal far more to readers who prefer fiction where 'nothing much happens' - and I mean that in a positive way. I've always felt that it is more of a 'woman's' book, but that's just a personal opinion. And for me it produced my favourite character of all time in William Halse Rivers. Of course he's far more than fiction, but as a fine psychologist who has faded into obscurity, Pat Barker has left him a great memorial. I can't ever read the book without being quite sure that if I had had the illness and the opportunity, there's no-one I would have preferred to treat me.

Regards - Sue

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Steve Bramley

I agree totally with you Sue and Stephen :)

Jonathan Price, plays Rivers' character with admirable sympathy in the excellent film adaptation by Gillies MacKinnon, not as good as the book of course (they never are) but a stunning effort.

Steve.

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Chris_B

I find it difficult to make a sensible comparison between Pat Barker's "Regeneration" and Faulk's "Birdsong", three books versus one isn't fair. In some ways the only things they have in common is that they are both set within the period of the Great War.

The themes of "Birdsong" are not exaclty new; love found and lost; lives and destinies shaped by great events. To be honest I got bored with the first part and skipped to where the book's focus became the Western Front. Faulks writes some excellent and compelling narrative of fighting in the trenches and the less well known struggles underground. But other aspects of the book I found a little unconvining.

Pat Barker's Trilogy is entirely different in nature mixing characters that have a real history (Sassoon,Owen, Rivers) with those of her own invention (Billy Prior). Three books gives her the time and space to incorporate a wide range themes in a number seemingly unconnected settings. The role of women, homosexuals and pacifists are touched upon both at home and at the Western Front.

Billy Prior,complex, flawed and with no sexual scruples, is nonetheless a sympathic and very real character. Pat Barker weaves a fascinating tale of Billy Prior, the "temporary gentleman", as he undergoes the cathartic treatment of Rivers, struggling with his duties at home before finally returning to France to meet his, perhaps predictable, fate.

While none of threads that Pat Barker uses are in themselves unknown, she has the gift of writing an apparently completey new view of the Great War in her books.

As I said, three books versus one isn't fair, but in my opinion the Trilogy is the easy winner. If you've never read it, then I envy your chance to read these books anew.

Chris.

PS For novels based in the "Great War" I can also recommend - "A Very Long Engagement" by Sebastian Japrisot.

Synopsis

One night in 1917, five French soldiers, court-martialled for self-inflicted wounding, are pushed into no-man's-land and later found dead. The youngest of the five has a fiancee, Mathilda. This is the story of Mathilda's quest, after the war, to discover what has become of her fiance.

Independent

‘The narrative is brilliantly complex and beguiling, and the climax devastating’

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Fleur

Haven't read birdsong, so can't comment re: that and haven't seen regeneration film ..... but have read Pat Barkers books and absolutely loved them and was inspired to find out more about Rivers, Sasoon and Owen after reading the trilogy.

Hubby, on the other hand, hated Regeneration and has never read the other 2 in the trilogy.

Fleur

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David Filsell
Posted (edited)

Apologies, but while I thought The first volume of Barkers trilogy was superb, the second  less so and the third virtually unreadable. I cut my losses and sold all three hardback, mint dust wrapped, copies to a dealer - and made a profit which I  invested in a more worthwhile volume and freed up two spaces on my book shelves. I gave Birdshite to a charity shop. Three spaces!

Edited by David Filsell

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PaddyO

David I agree with the downward arc on the PB novels and feel that Birdsong is overrated; in my opinion Henry Williamson has made one of the greatest contributions to twentieth century fiction from this country in his Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight series, several of which concern the main character's service in WW1.  

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Dust Jacket Collector
1 hour ago, David Filsell said:

I gave Birdshite to a charity shop. Three spaces!

You should have kept it, David. The first is fetching a few hundred these days. I threw his first book, Girl at the Lion d’Or, into the dustbin I thought it so bad. I’ve since seen some dealers asking a four figure sum for it. Win some lose some.

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seaJane

Glad someone agrees with me about both Barker and Faulks!

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Ron Clifton
17 hours ago, David Filsell said:

Apologies, but while I thought The first volume of Barkers trilogy was superb, the second  less so and the third virtually unreadable.

My experience too, David. As regards Birdsong, I quite liked it but it is a book set in the Great War, rather than a book about the Great War.

 

Ron

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seaJane

I would have liked Birdsong a lot more without the modern framing chapters at beginning and end. The end was, I thought, particularly weak.

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Black Maria

I've still got so many Great War books to read by people who were actually there that I've not got the time or inclination to read anything by people who weren't .

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David Filsell

In my opinion post  WW2 novels about the Great War are generally mostly unimpressive. There is however one outstanding  exception I would recommend without thinking twice - Covenant with Death by John Harris. It is a magnnificent piece of work

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David Filsell
Posted (edited)

DJC,

I own to the fact that my copy of Birdshite was a paper back. I came to the book late (and left its error ridden overwrought text early.

Like you, I suspect, I never buy books, or in add to my collection of Great War military bronzes, art or antiques with any eye to making a profit. I collect to enjoy pleasure of ownership and offload my bum purchases to my my local hospice charity shop, pass them one to friends,  sell the very cheaply at my WFA branch or give them to the branch to raffle. I am of course fortunate to recieve books for review. So goodbye messers  Faulks., Mullpurgo and others dabbling in writing "The Great War Novel" with no regrets.

Regards

David

 

Edited by David Filsell

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