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"Barker...has pursued [World War I] through a remarkable series of novels: the much-admired "Regeneration" trilogy...Life Class and now Toby's Room.... [T]hese novels go far beyond a demonstration of the powers of the historical imagination. Like most good works of fiction, they’re not so much about the events they depict as about the resonance of those events, the way certain actions ripple through people’s lives.... Toby's Room takes large risks. It’s dark, painful and indelibly grotesque, yet it is also tender. It strains its own narrative control to create in the midst of an ordinary life a kind of deformed reality—precisely to illustrate how everything we call ‘ordinary’ is disfigured by war. And it succeeds brilliantly."— John Vernon, New York Times Book Review
"[T]he writing is lucid and often beautiful."—Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly
"A tantalizing and moving return to wartime London."—Joanna Scutts, Washington Post
"You get a glimpse inside Toby’s room in Pat Barker’s poignant novel of the same name, but what you remember are three real and very different English landmarks — the Slade, London’s prestigious art academy; Cafe Royal, frequented by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill and Virginia Woolf; and the Queen’s Hospital, opened in 1917 to serve injured British soldiers in need of facial reconstruction.... No one evokes England in all its stiff-upper-lip gritty wartime privation like Barker. She is as uncompromising as Henry Tonks, as determined to render an honest portrayal of war. She will not allow us to sweep it out of sight.... [She] sets the bar high."—Ellen Kanner, Miami Herald
"Haunting and complicated sibling love is at the heart of Pat Barker's Great War novel.... [T]he precision of Ms. Barker's writing shows her again to be one of the finest chroniclers of both the physical and psychological disfigurements exacted by the First World War."—Wall Street Journal
"Barker deftly fused fact and fiction in her hugely impressive "Regeneration Trilogy" by turning the war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen into integral characters. She continues this blending in Toby's Room.... [It] is in many ways Barker's most ambitious novel to date.... As ever, the war scenes, and the accounts of the broken men who inhabit them, are, by turn, gripping and unsettling. However, in with the carnage and the trauma are those expert passages on art as something both reflective and redemptive. This is a powerful book that chronicles in various ingenious ways, and from certain unique perspectives, 'the poignancy of a young life cut short.'"—Malcolm Forbes, San Francisco Chronicle
"A Pat Barker novel…is a novel that deals in some way with the horrors of World War One, and it’s a also a novel about art, but mostly it’s a novel about how art attempts to depict the horrors of World War One. And this is how a Pat Barker novel attempts to depict the horrors of World War One: bluntly."—Brock Clark, Boston Globe
"[A]lthough Toby’s Room is not billed as a prequel or sequel to Life Class and the reader need not be familiar with that novel in order to get to grips with this... [t]hose who do know Barker’s previous work will be struck by recurrences and continuations in this novel not only of events in Life Class, but in Regeneration, too.... [Barker's] prose remains fresh, humanely business-like, crisp and unsentimental. Images are scrupulously vivid, and the plot has real momentum."—Freya Johnston, Telegraph (London)
"A driving storyline and a clear eye, steadily facing the history of our world.... For Barker, the wounded faces of the soldier-victims are realities, and also emblems of what must never be forgotten or evaded about war, and must continue – in her plain, steady, compelling voice – to be turned into art."—Hermione Lee, Guardian (London)
Praise for Life Class
“Beautiful and evocative . . . A coming-of-age story that transcends the individual and gestures to the fate of a generation.”
“Life Class possesses organic power and narrative sweep . . . Barker conjures up the hellish terrors of war and its fallout with meticulous precision.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Here, as in her best fiction, Barker unveils psychologically rich characters . . . and resists the trappings of a neat love story, reminding us once again that in art and life we remain infinitely mysterious.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
Praise for the Regeneration Trilogy
“A masterwork . . . complex and ambitious.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“It has been Pat Barker’s accomplishment to enlarge the scope of the contemporary English novel.”
—The New Yorker
“A literary achievement . . . remarkable.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Some of the most powerful antiwar writing in modern fiction.”
— The Boston Globe
Next morning after breakfast Toby announced that he was going to walk to the old mill.
“In this heat?” Mother said.
“It’s not too bad. Anyway, it’ll be cooler by the river.”
Elinor followed him into the hall. “Do you mind if I come?”
“It’s a long way.”
“Toby, I walk all over London.”
“Don’t let Rachel hear you say that. Rep-u-tation!”
They arranged to meet on the terrace. Soon Elinor was following her brother across the meadow, feeling the silken caress of long grasses against her bare arms and the occasional cool shock of cuckoo spit.
“You know this chap you were talking about last night . . . ?”
“Oh, don’t you start.”
“I was only asking.”
“I only mentioned him because I’m sick of being teased. I just wanted to get Tim off my back. Instead of which, I got Mother onto it.”
“She’s worse than Mother.”
“She’s jealous, that’s all. She settled down a bit too early and . . . Well, she didn’t exactly get a bargain, did she?”
“You don’t like Tim, do you?”
“He’s harmless. I just don’t think she’s very happy.” He turned to face her. “You won’t make that mistake, will you?”
“Marrying Tim? Shouldn’t think so.”
“No-o. Settling down too early.”
“I don’t intend to ‘settle down’ at all.”
She hoped that was the end of the subject, but a minute later Toby said, “All the same, there has to be a reason you mentioned him—I mean, him, rather than somebody else.”
“He’s perfectly obnoxious, that’s why. He was just the first person who came to mind.”
Once they reached the river path, there was some shade at last, though the flashing of sunlight through the leaves and branches was oddly disorientating, and more than once she tripped over a root or jarred herself stepping on air.
“Be easier coming back,” Toby said. “We won’t have the sun in our eyes.”
She didn’t want to go on talking. She was content to let images rise and fall in her mind: her lodgings in London, the Antiques Room at the Slade, the friends she was starting to make, the first few spindly shoots of independence, though it all seemed a little unreal here, in this thick heat, with dusty leaves grazing the side of her face and swarms of insects making a constant humming in the green shade.
She was walking along, hardly aware of her surroundings, when a sudden fierce buzzing broke into her trance. Toby caught her arm. Bluebottles, gleaming sapphire and emerald, were glued to a heap of droppings in the center of the path. A few stragglers zoomed drunkenly towards her, fastening on her eyes and lips. She spat, batting them away.
“Here, this way,” Toby said. He was holding a branch for her so she could edge past the seething mass.
“Fox?” she asked, meaning the droppings.
“Badger, I think. There’s a sett up there.”
She peered through the trees, but couldn’t see it.
“Do you remember we had a den here once?” he said.
She remembered the den: a small, dark, smelly place under some rhododendron bushes. Tiny black insects crawled over your skin and fell into your hair. “I don’t think it was here.”
“It was. You could just hear the weir.”
She listened, and sure enough, between the trees, barely audible, came the sound of rushing water.
“You’re right, I remember now. I thought it was a bit farther on.”
She thought he might want to go there, he lingered so long, but then he turned and walked on.
The river was flowing faster now, picking up leaves and twigs and tiny, struggling insects and whirling them away, and the trees were beginning to thin out. More and more light reached the path until, at last, they came out into an open field that sloped gently down towards the weir. A disused mill—the target of their walk—stood at the water’s edge, though it was many years since its wheel had turned.
This had been the forbidden place of their childhood. They were not to go in there, Mother would say. The floorboards were rotten, the ceilings liable to collapse at any minute . . .
“And don’t go near the water,” she’d call after them, in a last desperate attempt to keep them safe, as they walked away from her down the drive. “We won’t,” they’d chorus. “Promise,” Toby would add, for good measure, and then they would glance sideways at each other, red-faced from trying not to giggle.
Now, Elinor thought, they probably wouldn’t bother going in, but Toby went straight to the side window, prised the boards apart, and hoisted himself over the sill. After a second’s hesitation Elinor followed.
Blindness, after the blaze of sunlight. Then, gradually, things became clear: old beams, cobwebs, tracks of children’s footprints on the dusty floor. Their own footprints? No, of course not, couldn’t be, not after all these years. Other children came here now. She put her foot next to one of the prints, marveling at the difference in size. Toby, meanwhile, was expressing amazement at having to duck to avoid the beams.
Because this place had been the scene of so many forbidden adventures, an air of excitement still clung to it, in spite of the dingy surroundings. She went across to the window and peered out through a hole in the wall. “I wonder what it was like to work here.”
Toby came across and stood beside her. “Pretty good hell, I should think. Noise and dust.”
He was right, of course; when the wheel turned the whole place must have shook. She turned to him. “What do you think—?”
He grabbed her arms and pulled her towards him. Crushed against his chest, hardly able to breathe, she laughed and struggled, taking this for the start of some childish game, but then his lips fastened onto hers with a groping hunger that shocked her into stillness. His tongue thrust between her lips, a strong, muscular presence. She felt his chin rough against her cheek, the breadth of his chest and shoulders, not that round, androgynous, childish softness that had sometimes made them seem like two halves of a single person. She started to struggle again, really struggle, but his hand came up and cupped her breast and she felt herself softening, flowing towards him, as if something hard and impacted in the pit of her stomach had begun to melt.
And then, abruptly, he pushed her away.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Sorry, sorry . . .”
She couldn’t speak. How was it possible that anybody, in a single moment, could stumble into a chasm so deep there was no getting out of it?
“Look, you go back,” he said. “I’ll come home later.”
Automatically, she turned to go, but then remembered the river and turned back.
“No, go on, I’ll be all right,” he said.
“They’ll wonder what’s happened if I show up on my own.”
Posted July 29, 2013
Posted June 17, 2013
Pat Barker's Toby's Room is a harrowing account of war's consequences for those who fight, those who are wounded, and their families back home. I found this far more powerful than its predecessor, Life Class. Filled with specific details, including historical figures of World War I, its truths are as contemporary as today's headlines. Read this before encouraging our leaders to take us into yet another war.
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Posted March 31, 2013
This excellent book is a sequal to the excellent "Life Class", filling in the lives of the same cast of characters. Unusually, the first portion of "Toby's Room" is actually a prequil to Life Class, outlining the lives of the characters before World War I. The bulk of the book then follows their lives at in the later stages of the war, with events taking place after those of "Life Class".
Given this book as a gift, I went out and got "Life Class" and read it first. I would recommend this to all, and do not know if "Toby's Room" would be as enjoyable to those unfamiliar with the first novel.
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Posted December 10, 2013
I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend who's reading tastes I respect highly. I found the main character (Toby's sister who's name I can't remember) to be a totally unlikeable person, not unlikeable in an interesting manner, but just plain unlikeable. I could never get into the book (although I tried) an gave up after about 80 pages and ended up giving the book to the local library for their annual book sale.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 20, 2013
Posted August 4, 2013
NUGGET IN A BISCUT! *dip it in mashpotaaatoes* NUGGET BISCUT NUGGET IN A BISCUT! THEN DIP IT IN BBQ SAUCE! MMM!!! XD XD XD LOLZ
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Posted February 10, 2014
Posted June 25, 2013
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Posted July 9, 2013
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Posted October 19, 2012
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