I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run
It was with great anticipation that I turned my inquisitive reading mind towards Pat Barker’s 1st WW extravaganza The Regeneration Trilogy. The paperwork version, of this former booker prize winner, boasts just under a 900 page word count and demands some serious attention and dedicated reading time. Having recently reread and loved Sebastian Faulks monumental Birdsong, I was hopeful that Regeneration would provide equal if not better stimulus.
In reality The Regeneration Trilogy (as the name implies) is not one but 3 books namely; Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road. It follows the fortunes and life of army psychologist William Rivers, and patients under his professional care damaged by the fallout of WW1. It is hoped that Rivers can repair not only their damaged bodies but more importantly their disturbed minds, broken by the sights and sounds of the bloody battlefield they have so recently been exposed to. One such eminent patient was the poet Siegfried Sassoon who was sent for immediate medical attention to River’s war hospital, when in reality he was a conscientious objector. Other worthy notables were poet and author Robert Graves, and the tragic wartime poet Wilfred Owen.
Quite simply Regeneration is much too wordy, and it is a constant battle not to get lost in the endless discussions and debates that make up the majority of the 900 pages. The exception however is in the persona of damaged soldier Billy Prior. By his actions, and his live for the moment nihilistic approach, we come a little way to understanding the crude approach adopted by physicians, in their treatment of soldiers, many years before the emergence and world recognition of post-traumatic stress disorder.