Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: What I read on my vacation: "Regeneration"

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

What I read on my vacation: "Regeneration"

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I had heard about Pat Barker’s trilogy of historical novels about World War I. Like Steig Larsson’s Millennium trilogy which I gobbled up last year, this one sounded like nothing I’d want to read. I was wrong.

“Regeneration” starts with a statement against the war by the poet Siegfried Sassoon: “I am making this statement as as act of willful defiance of military authority, because I believe the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.

“I am a soldier, convinced that I am writing on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defense and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation....

“I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.”

Hmmm.

It continues with Sassoon’s stay in a mental hospital where he is treated by Dr. William Rivers. This is all historical fact, as is Sassoon’s meeting a very young Wilfred Owen, who is an aspiring poet in awe of Sassoon. There is, in fact, one wonderful scene in which the two are basically workshopping a poem Owen has written.

There is also much about the cruelty of war, often exacerbated by the unthinking cruelty of British military officers. And there is quite a bit of very interesting early 20th century psychiatric thinking and practice.

This was a fascinating book that took me by surprise. I am looking forward to reading the next two books in the series.

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Anonymous Sandra Kohler said...

This is a wonderful, if at points painful to read, set of novels. I think you'll enjoy the other two.

January 7, 2011 at 1:39 PM  

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