In this critical study, David Waterman examines questions of social representation in all of Pat Barker's novels, published over the last twenty-five years, from Union Street (1982) to the recent Life Class (2007), especially the ways in which Barker encourages us to interrogate the reality created by such conventionalizing, prescriptive representations in favor of a reality more accurately represented through a critical assessment of the uses and abuses of collective representations. Barker's principal characters are out of step with the natural order of things; they question cultural constructions like masculinity, heroism, the unquestionable right of institutions, and they worry about their role as members of the larger community. Such questions are often, fundamentally, questions of representation, whether we examine how existing representations serve to maintain the status quo, or whether we are interested in how to represent the horrors of war or the atrocities of civil life, how to give voice to trauma in an effort to approach something resembling truth--in other words, how best to represent the kinds of human experiences which resist representation.
Pat Barker and the Mediation of Social Reality is an important book for scholars interested in contemporary British fiction, women's writing, and social-psychological approaches to literature.
"A valuable addition to Barker scholarship in that it gives us ways to read the deep influence of social structures and how, through language and other means, they work themselves into individuals social and sexual identities ... it comprehensively covers Barker's eleven novels, and how the contrast between social inscription and traumatic experience is a repeated theme revisited in different contexts in each text ... the author highlights the value of Barker's work as social commentary and makes readers aware of her artistry in creating the rich inner lives of her complex characters and their multiple discourses that offer up ways to rethink enormous social and personal issues with a compelling clarity about the need for re-visioning our world." - Prof. Laurie Vickroy, Bradley University