Book Review: “Regeneration” (1999) by Pat Barker

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Pat Barker’s Regeneration is one of those must-read works for anyone who is interested in World War One. Critics loved it, it was nominated for the Booker Prize, and was adapted into a film starring James Wilby, Jonathan Pryce, and Jonny Lee Miller. The novel tells the story of the Craiglockhart War Hospital, where army officers were treated for both physical injuries and severe PTSD. Characters from all walks of life struggle with the effects of the war, including the fictional counterparts of two Narratologist regulars, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. What a premise, right? And yet, I have been postponing this review for days because I struggled to come up with anything to say about Regeneration other than: “‘s alright.”

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Book Review: “Siegfried Sassoon: A Life” by Max Egremont

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Sassoon in 1920.

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When we think of Siegfried Sassoon, we think of World War One – his brutally realistic poems about the trenches, his anger, how he narrowly escaped death so many times. The war was the defining of Sassoon’s life and his career as a writer… But it lasted only four years and was over when he was only thirty-two. In this 639-page biography, the war ends around the 200th page. Then what? This was a question that plagued Sassoon all his life – and one his biographer, Max Egremont, struggles with as well. What happens after the worst has passed? How do you move on? What is left?

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Reading List: World War One – Poetry

Drawing by Siegfried Sassoon.

Drawing by Siegfried Sassoon.

Inspired by this year’s centenary events and wave of media attention, I have spent the last few months diving into works from the Great War and encountered some true gems along the way. It is a fascinating era where artists struggle to put unspeakable horrors into words and try to find meaning in the chaos. For everyone who wants to get into WWI literature, I have put together three reading lists with suggestions, ranging from the big names of the period to lesser known publications that I think deserve more attention. The first post in the series deals with poetry (see: non-fiction and fiction), both from the era itself and by contemporary authors looking back.

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Book Review: “A Broken World: Letters, Diaries and Memories of the Great War” (2014), eds. Sebastian Faulks and Hope Wolf

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Thanks to the centenary I have caught the WWI bug and I have started working my way through Great War literature. After Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, I figured it was time for a non-fiction account and decided on this collection of letters and diaries, edited by Sebastian Faulks and Hope Wolf. The selection is varied, including not just British documents but also German, Russian, and Indian voices, plenty of women (much appreciated!), and mostly “ordinary people” with the occasional familiar name thrown in (Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence, and so on). The fragments are not in chronological order, but have been organised by place and theme instead: ‘Hearing and imagining from afar’, ‘experience at close quarters’, ‘how the war divided us’, and ‘searching for what is lost.’ We get stories from all over Europe, ranging from published articles to letters from loved ones.

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