4.5 stars of 5 ★★★★★
I may have mention before(maybe only like 100 times), but I’m a huge history buff with a strong obsession with the Mid 19th century to the Present. I especially love the UK in the 1880s, 1890s, WWI, between wars era, and WWII. In one of my favorite English classes in college (20th Century Brit Lit), I was introduced to the WWI war novel Regeneration by Pat Barker. I loved that book and it is still one of my favorites today. I was excited when my professor told me Regeneration was the beginning of a trilogy, that there were two other novel, The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road, which won the Man Booker in 1995. I quickly added them to my To-Read List, but college got in the way, so I wasn’t able to read the next book until last year. I was still entranced by the story, so I ordered The Ghost Road for Christmas. I was not disappointed by this last installment. Here’s the summary (via Goodreads):
The final book in the Regeneration Trilogy, and winner of the 1995 Booker Prize
The Ghost Road is the culminating masterpiece of Pat Barker’s towering World War I fiction trilogy. The time of the novel is the closing months of the most senselessly savage of modern conflicts. In France, millions of men engaged in brutal trench warfare are all “ghosts in the making.” In England, psychologist William Rivers, with severe pangs of conscience, treats the mental casualties of the war to make them whole enough to fight again. One of these, Billy Prior, risen to the officer class from the working class, both courageous and sardonic, decides to return to France with his fellow officer, poet Wilfred Owen, to fight a war he no longer believes in. Meanwhile, Rivers, enfevered by influenza, returns in memory to his experience studying a South Pacific tribe whose ethos amounted to a culture of death. Across the gulf between his society and theirs, Rivers begins to form connections that cast new light on his–and our–understanding of war.
Combining poetic intensity with gritty realism, blending biting humor with tragic drama, moving toward a denouement as inevitable as it is devastating, The Ghost Road both encapsulates history and transcends it. It is a modern masterpiece
If you like war fiction, you have to read this series. If you’re interested in the psychological development of the diagnosis of Shell Shock (PTSD), if you are interested in the War Poets, or in history in general, I recommend this book, this series, and this author wholeheartedly. The only reason I did not give The Ghost Road five stars is because it is not as good as Regeneration, IMHO, and some of the flash-back scenes with Dr. Rivers bored me. It is still an incredible novel, and worth the read.
Extra stuff: Wilfred Owen became a sort-of student( and rumored lover too) of poetry under Siegfried Sassoon at Craiglockhart Hospital and wrote the majority of his poems in a one year period. He is now considered one of, if not the best, War Poet of WWI. Regeneration focuses on WO and SS’s rumored romantic relationship (which I totally believe in) if anyone wants more on that.
Just to rub salt in anyone’s who feels for these two wounds, according to Siegfried’s Journey, “After the Armistice, Sassoon waited in vain for word from Owen, only to be told of his death several months later. The loss grieved Sassoon greatly, and he was never ‘able to accept that disappearance philosophically”(Quote lifted from Wikipedia). EXCUSE ME WHILE I GRIMACE IN PAIN AND GO SHAKE MY FIST AT THE SKY.
Any who, here is one of my favorite’s of Owen’s poetry, “Dulce et Decorum Est”.
“Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.