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Barker, Pat

child war world billy

(British, 1943– )

Pat Barker's early novels, Union Street (1982) and Blow Your House Down (1984), earned her the reputation of being a searing commentator on the lives of women blighted by economic deprivation; yet she emphasizes the vitality and energy of her characters more than their oppression. But Barker gained fame, and the Booker Prize, for her trilogy about the First World War, Regeneration (1991), The Eye in the Door (1993); and The Ghost Road (1995). These books are dominated by working-class Billy Prior and his experiences in the trenches. Shell-shocked, Billy is sent to the Craiglockhart hospital where he meets Dr Rivers. Rivers has treated the great war poets, Sassoon, Graves, and Owen, all of whom feature in the books. This unusual focus allows Barker to explore creativity, class, and sexuality. In Another World (1998) the focus is on a contemporary family in which the violence of the older child, Gareth, towards his younger brother is prefigured by the experience of his grandfather in the First World War. Barker's work characteristically retains a large scope while focusing on the minutiae of daily existence with unsentimental precision. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in her ninth novel, the gripping Border Crossing (2001); this book asks great questions of good and evil, innocence, guilt and responsibility, through the story of a child psychologist forced to reconsider the long-closed case of Danny Miller, a chilling but ultimately painfully human child murderer.

Erich Maria Remarque, Louis de Bernières, Nell Dunn.

See HISTORICAL, WAR  LM

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