Mary's Library

Thursday, November 02, 2006

November Books

Over at Lesley’s Book Nook there’s one of those challenges so popular with book bloggers. This started in Canada and required those accepting the challenge, in honor of Remembrance Day, to read three books this month that are set during WW I or WW II.

I’ve decided not to accept the challenge to read three books. Instead I’m going to post each day this month about a book, fiction or nonfiction, with some connection to one of the two wars or written or set in the period between the beginning of WW I and the end of WW II.

I’m going to give you three titles today: The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker, which is comprised of Regeneration (1991), The Eye in the Door (1993), and The Ghost Road (1995.)

These are far and away my favorite works of fiction about World War I and are, collectively, a masterpiece. They are about Dr W H R Rivers, an anthropologist with a medical degree who returned to practicing medicine during the war.

Regeneration takes place at Craiglockhart War Hospital, which is where Rivers treated soldiers with shell shock, what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder. The characters who, like Rivers, are based on real-life counterparts, include Sigfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and Robert Graves.

The book is about conflicting duties: the duty to fight for one’s country and the duty to protest a war that is needlessly killing millions of young men. The duty to help soldiers regain their mental health and the anguish of sending them back into the war as soon as they are well.

The Eye in the Door is about the stress that the war inflicts on society. From the cover: “It is the spring of 1918, and Britain is faced with the possibility of defeat by Germany. A beleaguered government and a vengeful public target two groups as scapegoats: pacifists and homosexuals. Many are jailed, others lead dangerous double lives and the ‘eye in the door’ becomes a symbol of the paranoia that threatens to destroy the very fabric of British society.”

The Ghost Road takes place during the last weeks of the war. From the cover: “In France, millions of men engaged in brutal trench warfare are all ‘ghosts in the making.’ In England, psychologist William Rivers, with severe pangs of conscience, treats the mental casualties of the war to make them whole enough to fight again. . . . Rivers, enfeavered by influenza, returns in memory to his experience studying a South Pacific tribe whose ethos amounted to a culture of death. Across the gulf between his society and theirs, Rivers begins to form connections that cast new light on his – and our – understanding of war.”


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