Book review: Book review: Regeneration by Pat Barker

Regeneration is a different type of war book to what readers or students might be used to, with the action taking place in a hospital rather than in the trenches.

Centring on the experience of a soldier who is sent to convalesce after writing a letter to a newspaper arguing that the war had run its course and too many young men had died.

While in the trenches, soldiers are face-to-face with the physical impact of war, in the hospital, it is their mental state that has suffered from the impact of battle.

Voices cry out in the night due to recurrent nightmares, one soldier is unable to keep food down after a particularly gruesome experience on the front, while another suffers from psychological paralysis.

Men struggle to find a pathway between their horror of returning to the front and the sense of failure that they intuit will be theirs if they fail to do so.

These are experiences of war rarely seen or discussed in the emphasis that both history books and many other works of fiction place on the battlefield.

The book touched on issues of mental health, homosexuality and women’s role in the war, working in factories in which their skin took on a yellowish tint.

It is an illuminating and heartbreaking book that is very much worth reading. I will be looking out for the second two books in the series.

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