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Toby's Room

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  2,049 ratings  ·  360 reviews
Pat Barker, Booker prize-winning author of the Regeneration trilogy returns to WWI in this dark, compelling novel of human desire, wartime horror and the power of friendship.

Toby and Elinor, brother and sister, friends and confidants, are sharers of a dark secret, carried from the summer of 1912 into the battlefields of France and wartime London in 1917.

When Toby is report
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Hardcover, 265 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Hamish Hamilton (first published 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jane
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
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Julie
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
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Rick
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
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
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Ian
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
Caroline
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
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Amanda
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
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Robert
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
Kay Wright
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
Darren
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
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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.
Carey Combe
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.
Ann
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
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Sheri
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
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DR
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
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Oliver
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
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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
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
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Ali
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
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Ruth
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
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Bridget
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
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
Tim
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
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Pam
I want to write just enough to remind MYSELF why I didn't care too much for this book - what's interesting to me is that I'm also reading a non-fiction book about the 'Bohemians' in Britian - which involves a lot of Slade people...maybe that is what Ms Barker was trying to get in touch w/ but I missed the connection. I also just did NOT LIKE Elinor, in fact for some reason I actively DISLIKED here...and in such a way that I just had no patience. This will happen but then the writing has to be ju ...more
Cynthia Dunn
Pat Barker's new book, "Toby's Room" is considered to be a sequel to "Life Class." Yet, although I didn't care for "Life Class," I found this to be much better and could be read without having read the first book. Not as good as her "Regeneration Trilogy," it also takes place during WWI with a bit of incest, homosexuality, painting, disfigurement and secrets added to the mix. None of the characters are very likeable though I enjoyed reading about Henry Tonks, the real life surgeon who became a f ...more
Gail
I read this as a book group read, chosen because of the centenary of the First World War. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but whatever I had in mind was nothing like the novel.

It's about a group of students studying art at Slade Art School, starting just before the war started. And then how the war impacts on their lives. Toby is the brother of a character called Elinor - and the novel is partly about her grief at his disappearance/death (he is reported 'missing, believed killed'), and tryin
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Pearl
I going to talk about "Toby's Room" and "Life Class" together because they are parts of the same story, with the same characters, and take place in overlapping time periods. I read "Toby's Room" first, not realizing there was an earlier story about these characters. It can stand on its own and is the better of the two books, but "Life Class" helps fill in the story you get in the second book. "Life Class" is a rather thin book and it reduced the rating of the two books overall. Perhaps a trilogy ...more
Barbara Green
I have read and thoroughly enjoyed numerous Pat Barker novels and Toby's Room is no exception. I was gripped from the very first page and read it very quickly. The characters are credible and as such often frustrating. Barker's writing as usual is excellent and the mix of past and present works really well. I love the way she includes real life characters which leaves me wanting to read more about them and the period. This novel isn't perfect but it's pretty darn close. I heartily recommend it.
Lorna Chan
Toby’s Room
This book was chosen by my book group; I was familiar with the author having ploughed through her Regenerations trilogy when I was 15. By recommendation of my librarian, as I had enjoyed reading Wilfred Owen’s poetry. I say ploughed, because I remember struggling through it.
So when embarking on Toby’s Room it was with a small amount of trepidation, it was unfounded the writing style of Pat Barker is flawless. Something I can appreciate much more through the passage of time. However I
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Amy
3.5 The underbelly, gruesome air of war mixed with beautiful, lyrical descriptions of artistry with an underlying scandal highlight this somberly written piece immersed in wartime. Overwhelming sadness bleeds through the text into the main characters. Pat Barker puts true emotion into her words and paragraphs weaving a very dramatic story. Well done. Thanks Goodreads!***Please note I received this book for free from Goodreads First-reads.
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The Book Vipers: Toby's Room 4 53 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 Du
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More about Pat Barker...
Regeneration (Regeneration, #1) The Ghost Road (Regeneration, #3) The Eye in the Door (Regeneration, #2) Life Class The Regeneration Trilogy

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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.” 6 likes
“As if you cope with loss by ingesting the dead person” 3 likes
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