#230 Regeneration

I was in a rush last time I went to the library because I got there 10 minutes before closing time so I cheated and went for the easy option: instead of searching for a new author I went for the two other Pat Barker books on the list – I think this was partially to console myself after the self-inflicted boredom that was Labyrinths. Only when I read the blurb of Regeneration did I realise that The Ghost Road is actually the last book of the trilogy that starts with Regeneration so I had essentially managed to read the ending of the stories before the beginning – an occupational hazard of choosing books in such a blind way. The other (surprisingly frequent) problem with reading books only from the list is again illustrated here: the middle book completing the trilogy (The Eye in the Door) is not included on the list, so I’ll have to add it to my personal “to read list” (which of course means it’s #772 – after everything else left on the 1001 books).
Regeneration was everything I wanted to return to after struggling through Labyrinths (although the font size was slightly smaller than The Ghost Road so it did take me longer – not that that’s a bad thing): engaging, amusing, interesting… etc etc. There was one instance where I confused one of the minor characters with one from the Ghost Road when I had a few days between reading it but (as you would expect) it is of course fine as a standalone book and on the whole I didn’t mind having read the ending first (although I do sometimes research films or books that I think might be interesting and read the synopsis – ending included – before watching/reading the thing itself so this might be more troublesome to someone who does care about spoilers).
This novel concentrates on Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen (mainly the former – who was only mentioned in passing in the Ghost Road which again helped me clearly differentiate between the two) so I did try to recall my (very scarce) memories of GSCE WWI poetry at first, but then gave up and enjoyed the novel as a fiction and Sassoon as just a character – probably for the best as I couldn’t remember whether or not he had died in the war (actually I don’t know whether or not I knew that anyway – although I did prefer him to Wilfred Owen when I studied them); so when Rivers suspects that Sassoon wants to get sent back to the front to be killed I didn’t know whether or not that would be the case but I don’t think that an appreciation of what had happened in real life would have increased (or decreased) my enjoyment of the book as a whole. Dr Rivers and Billy Prior are also present in this novel but neither character is explored as much as in the Ghost Road; again the rest of the characters consist mainly of other hospital patients with various horrific injuries and/or experiences. I really enjoyed Regeneration and am looking forward to reading the third (and sadly last) Pat Barker novel on the list – even if it isn’t part of the trilogy – although in some ways it is a shame to read all three practically in one go instead of saving one as a guaranteed good read for later.

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