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Toby's Room (Life Class #2)

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,776 Ratings  ·  436 Reviews
From Booker Prize winner Pat Barker, a masterful novel that portrays the staggering human cost of the Great War. Admirers of her Regeneration Trilogy as well as fans of Downton Abbey and War Horse will be enthralled.

With Toby’s Room, a sequel to her widely praised previous novel Life Class, the incomparable Pat Barker confirms her place in the pantheon of Britain’s fine
ebook, 256 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Anchor (first published 2012)
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Sep 08, 2012 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: passed-on
Looking back, I realise that Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy was responsible for a shift in the direction of reading. Those books made me realise that war books weren’t just about men and fighting. And that I could learn a great deal about the world and humanity through books that considered war and its consequences.

Since then I’ve read and learned a great deal. But I haven’t read any of Pat Barker’s work, because nothing has called me in quite the same way as that trilogy. Until now …

Toby’s R
This is another typical Pat Barker book. By that I mean it's a really excellent read. Like The Regeneration trilogy, this book is set in the years during and just after, the First World War, and the awful consequences thereof.

I have to say that the part of the book that is set in a military hospital dealing with soldiers with facial injuries was pretty hard to take. Some of the descriptions of these injuries were really horrific.

This is a book mainly about a brother and sister, with other memora
Jun 13, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-club
This is a book for a stark, rainy day and a cup of steaming hot tea. The whole book is somber and bleak, as of course it should be considering the topic. Toby's Room is Pat Barker's second book (it could easily be read alone, but I recommend reading Life Class first) about three young British art students whose lives are ravaged by World War I. This novel takes place after the two men are back in London, dealing with injuries of both the physical and psychological nature, struggling to find a ha ...more
The bitter irony of war is that it defines life at the same time as it destroys. For those in uniform, following orders is the one raison d’etre when all reason has been lost in the bloodied muck of the battlefield. For those left behind, doing for the war effort becomes the channel through which fear and pride flow into the morass of uncertainty.

How does war change us? Does it redefine character? Does it halt the trajectory of our lives and set us on a different path? Does it show in stark rel
“Toby’s Room” is probably the seventh book by Pat Barker I have read. I must admit that I was so impressed and affected by her “Regenaration" trilogy when I had read it a couple of years ago, that Barker became one of my favourite writers, and I have been coming back for more of her writing ever since. “Toby’s Room” is a sequel to “Life Class”, although it can be read as a separate book as well. And, together with “Life Class” it’s another disturbing and vivid account of life before, during and ...more
Mar 06, 2013 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Toby's Room is the latest excellent novel by Pat Barker. I have read most of Pat Barker's novels and they never fail to satisfy. Barker creates interesting characters and her best works (the Regeneration Trilogy)occur during the First World War. In these books and in Toby's Room her fictional characters interact with actual historical figures in coming to grips with the horrors of modern warfare. Barker writes less about battles and combat and more about the impact of those conflicts on combatan ...more
Apr 22, 2016 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barker’s novel is a sequel to her Life Class and the second volume in a trilogy by that name. The trilogy follows the lives of art students at the Slade school in London, and this second volume focuses on the years of 1912 and 1917, before and during WWI. The main characters are the same as in the first volume.

This novel’s first part involves Elinor Brooke and her older brother Toby, a young physician, focusing particularly on their relationship with each other and the stresses caused both by th
This book has had mixed reviews, particularly from people who loved Barker’s regeneration trilogy. I read Toby’s room back to back with Life Class and really enjoyed it.

Barker does make all her characters, whether completely fictional or based on people in real life utterly convincing. She also pulled off the trick of engaging the reader’s sympathies with the unlikeable characters like Kit Neville who becomes increasingly unpleasant the more you discover about him. But he is also a man to be pi
I have huge respect for Pat Barker and devoured her "Regeneration" trilogy, but have been a little disappointed in subsequent offerings. I'm afraid "Toby's Room" hasn't changed that at all.
Still writing about the tragedy of WW1, I feel this novel and it's somewhat surprising opening events doesn't really add to Barker's canon on the subject.
The characters, with the possible exception of Neville, are insubstantial and, while Neville is fleshed out a little more thoroughly than the rest, even the
A quite compelling read that I struggled to put down. It combines dark,family secrets with the horrors of the First World War and the intimacy of love and loss. Elinor, a budding artist is extremely close to her older brother Toby, and when the family recieves news that Toby is "Missing, Believed Killed", Elinor's safe world of just ignoring the war is shattered. She becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Toby, and seeks the help of various old friends including Kit Neville, a fellow ...more
Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
'Painting numbed the pain; nothing else did.'

It is 1912, and Elinor Brooke is studying art at the Slade School of Art in London under the tutorage of Henry Tonks. There she befriends fellow art student Kit Neville, rather a difficult person, and somewhat of a ladies' man. Elinor's mother and sister are against her independence and her pursuing her studies. Toby, Elinor's brother and her closest friend, is supportive of her endeavours.

Then the story moves forward to 1917, with Britain at war, an

The volumes in Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy are among my favourite books, and I'm certainly not disappointed with this one, as I think it's equally good.
In the Regeneration Trilogy she explores the devastating and far reaching psychological effects serving in the trenches during WW1 has on soldiers and officers alike. In Toby's Room she revisits that era and weaves a brilliant story around the pioneering work of surgeons trying to help men who have returned from war with devastating facial
Michael Sanderson-green
All the topics touched on in the regeneration trilogy and more in a third the time , without losing any power, I guess a reflection of maturity as writer. The book covers wwwi, incest, homosexuality, death, lies perception, trauma , women's role in the 1910s and more . Chapter 11 is one of the best single chapter I've read in any book it just took the previous chapters build up and with great clarity and poetry made sense of it all and set the book spinning in its intended direction.
I liked it. I would argue that it is not really a "war" book. Nor, is it really all that much about the new (for the time) science of facial reconstruction. This is a book about burgeoning sexuality and relationships between people (then again, isn't everything ultimately about relationships between people?).

Barker sets the hook early with the scene between Elinor and Toby and then gently reveals the effects of that night over the rest of their lives. She never quite comes back to it (if only I
Mar 06, 2014 DR rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Don’t much like Toby. Don’t like his room much, either. But I liked the novel to which this is an awkward sequel, LIFE CLASS (2007), and I think REGENERATION (1991) is a memorable, important novel. TOBY'S ROOM, a slim book, is hard to review without giving up spoilers about what really happened to Toby Brooke, brother of Elinor.

Barker clearly is most interested in the question of how artists respond to war. Like Dr. Rivers of Craiglockhart in the “Regeneration Trilogy,” Henry Tonks--both a surge
Mar 25, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
British novelist, Pat Barker is best known for the Regeneration Triology, focused on World War I. Toby's Room covers some of the same territory...the years leading up to the war when it was all but unimaginable...and the years of the war when it also was all but unimaginable. Toby's Room is a superb novel offering a full account of what it was like to be a young person in England during those times. Barker's focus is on Elinor and Toby, younger sister and older brother, in a milieu of other well ...more
Alice Meloy
A "companion" to her previous novel, Life Class, (and, for my money, a better book) this novel returns to the era of WWI, a subject which has provided Barker fodder for many of her novels. Medicine, art, medical technology, psychology, and the effects of war conflate in this story of Elinor Brooke, a young upper class art student. Her relationship with her older brother Toby has always been very close, and when Toby, a medical officer, does not return from the battlefield, Elinor becomes obsesse ...more
Kay Wright
Feb 05, 2013 Kay Wright rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the cover of this book and picked it up knowing nothing abut it. Turns out to be another war story, this one takes place in England just before WWI then jumps four years to 1917. the story focuses on Elinor, an art student under real life teacher Henry Tonks at The Slade. Part One, in 1914, frames her through her relationship with her older, adored brother Toby as well as her experience at school. Part Two takes place in 1917 after Toby has been sent to France and she senses he will not ...more
Perhaps I need to let this book simmer in my mind longer, in order to truly appreciate it. I finished "Toby's Room" in a day, spurred on by the intense and unexpected events occurring in the very first pages of the novel. I was shocked at the matter-of-fact descriptions of the defining event that ripples through the rest of the story. I was fascinated with the characters in the beginning, for their actions and reactions were so different than anything I had expected. I was taken in by the main c ...more
Aug 27, 2012 Darren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't usually bother finishing a book I'm not enjoying (it's my way of making sure reading remains my favourite thing to do, I suppose) but I have such admiration for Pat Barker's writing that I felt a sense of duty to complete this.

The Regeneration trilogy are among my favourite novels, and I think Barker's unflinchingness a far better treatment of World War One that Faulks' more decorous approach in Birdsong. I also enjoyed her subsequent novels, Another World and Border Crossing. Toby's Roo
Like many readers, I was absolutely mesmerized by Barker's amazing World War I trilogy--Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road--and I've read every novel since those, generally with great interest. I liked (but did not adore) Life Class, and I feel similarly about its sequel, Toby's Room. I admired it and wanted to like it more than I did.

I think it might be as simple as the fact that the domestic drama (art students in London) cannot compare with the drama of the trench (this is
Aug 16, 2015 Diana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carey Combe
Nov 21, 2012 Carey Combe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harrowing stuff, although for me some of the characters (especially Toby) not fleshed out enough to be bothered about and some of her techniques (dream sequences for instance...) i found weak, but once again she brings the emotions and horrors of WW1 vividly to life and the main storyline - although not very dramatic - rings powerfully true.
Great book.
Jun 23, 2014 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barker returns to WWI with all the acuity and detail she brought to her "Regeneration Trilogy". Late in "Toby's Room", there is a description of seagulls flying: "Great white boomerangs of bone and sinew swooping low over their heads..." This could also be applied to battle scenes, in which whole men are quickly reduced to scattered fragments.

The Toby of the title is the adored brother of Elinor, a developing artist. Much of the novel is set in 1917, but in the peaceful days of 1912, an incident
Steve Woods
This book was raw. Raw emotion! A raw, open wound! The characters are complex as are the relationships. But then whose intimate relationships are simple or straightforward. We might apply a slather of "normalcy" to what appears on the outside, but internally for most of us, it is all seething. Seething is a good word for what broiled through this novel. An incestuous relationship with all the baggage that implies, a good and gallant officer whose fall from grace comes from his seeking solace in ...more
Oct 30, 2012 Oliver rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pat Barker is, as always, an excellent storyteller and a master of symbolic language. In this novel, she revisits the era of the Regeneration Trilogy, and creates it as convincingly as she did then.

I'm giving Toby's Room only three stars on a first reading, primarily because of the frustration I felt at Barker's choice to make Toby so opaque that he's insubstantial. Admittedly, her point is that no one knows him, save possibly a friend who's glimpsed once, but he drives the narrative from offst
David Carr
Perhaps a speculative book or a great essay has been written fully imagining the lost generations whose betrothals and promises were shattered by this war or that one. What might American culture have been, had 750,000 boys not perished at Gettysburg, Chickamauga, or Spotsylvania? What if the Europeans had not squandered 1.2 million lives at the Somme alone? Imaginable histories, perhaps, but impossible to write.

The impossible history is what fiction captures. Life Class and Toby's Room are nove
May 23, 2013 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Toby’s Room is a companion novel to Life Class, I had thought it was a sequel – but it is not really, the novel would stand alone. However I am glad I read the novels in this order. In Life Class we met Elinor Brooke, Paul Tarrant and Kit Neville and these characters are central to Toby’s Room as well. When I was reading Life Class I found Elinor a cold and elusive character and after reading Toby’s Room I find she remains just a little out of reach –I am sure this is deliberate.
Toby’s Room ope
Apr 22, 2013 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy in the early '90s and was blown away by it. Contemporary fiction with a WW1 background has long been an interest of mine, and those books were a brilliant exposition of the ravages of war and its effect on the soldiers who fought in it, but also gave insight into the early days of psychiatric treatment, and provided a fascinating fictionalized look at the literary process through the real-life characters of Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke.

In Toby's Ro
Ruth Seeley
I made sure I'd read Life Class before reading Toby's Room because I knew it was a prequel of sorts and that most of the characters in Life Class would reappear in Toby's Room. While this novel may not be Pat Barker at her absolute best, it's still worth reading, I think. Paul, Elinor and Neville feature in this novel as well, but its territory is less WWI than it is the human heart, the need to know and the need for closure, and its themes are the power of truth to wound as well as heal and the ...more
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The Book Vipers: Toby's Room 4 58 Mar 08, 2013 01:13PM  
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Pat Barker was born in Thornaby-on-Tees in 1943. She was educated at the London School of Economics and has been a teacher of history and politics.

Her books include the highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy Regeneration ; The Eye in the Door , winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize; and The Ghost Road , winner of the Booker Prize; as well as seven other novels. Pat Barker is married and lives in
More about Pat Barker...

Other Books in the Series

Life Class (3 books)
  • Life Class (Life Class, #1)
  • Noonday (Life Class, #3)

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“she lived a life almost obsessively devoted to triviality. She'd turned into a pond skater, not because she didn't know what lay beneath the surface, but precisely because she did.” 8 likes
“As if you cope with loss by ingesting the dead person” 4 likes
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