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Life Class

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  2,080 ratings  ·  370 reviews
In this superb new novel, Pat Barker returns to her most renowned subject: the devastation and psychic damage wrought by WWI on all levels of British society. In the spring of 1914, a group of young students gather in an art studio for a life-drawing class. Paul Tarrant and Elinor Brooke are two components of a love triangle, and at the outset of the war, they turn to each ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published by Hamish Hamilton (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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I love the Regeneration trilogy so much, but I just can’t get into Barker’s other work. Her latest novel struck me as weirdly unfocused: the first half follows Paul through art school and various romantic assignations, including a quasi love triangle thing; I didn’t find it particularly compelling. Even after Paul goes to war as an ambulance driver and hospital worker, I couldn’t latch on—I was never at all invested or even particularly interested in Paul and Elinor as a couple, and I felt at t ...more
This is a Pat Barker two, not an overall two. Probably an overall three. No one writes World War I and that period as well as Barker, and in general her prose is smooth and compelling. The problem is htat the war in this book becomes such an outsize character that no one else really fully comes to life. The book's episodic structure make it seem unfinished -- the story of Teresa that provides the narrative impetus for the first part of the book feels like it is left hanging, as does the vaguely ...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
Pat Barker returns to World War I in this lovely and heartbreaking novel about war and art. The action starts just prior to the Great War at the Slade, a prestigous art school in London. Neville loves Elinor, but Elinor doesn't want marriage or any of the trappings of a traditional life. She is a modern woman, who values art over most other things. Paul is their friend, and in love with Elinor, as well. While Paul is not as good a painter as the other two, he does have good looks and an honest s ...more
In Pat Barker's latest novel she returns to the horror of WWI, the setting of her highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy.

The novel follows a trio of art students and their preoccupations with love and lust, which pale to insignificance as the momentum of war gathers pace. Paul and Kit both volunteer for Red Cross duty at the front, and process their experiences into their painting, whereas in contrast, Elinor joins the circle around Lady Ottoline Morrell, society hostess to pacifists, conscienti
4 1/2 stars. Pat Barker is such an amazing author. I didn't like this one quite as much as her award winning Regeneration trilogy, which has made it onto my favorite books ever list, but this one is wonderful too. It's quieter in a way, but her vivid, flawed characters, realistic historical details, and flawless dialogue are consistent. And her writing! The only author I can really compare her to is Edna St. Vincent Millay which...well, which probably makes no sense, since Millay was a poet rath ...more
Life Class
I have a friend on GR to thank –Ta Laura – for pointing me in the direction of Life class as I was about to embark on reading Toby’s Room for a war and literature readalong. Did I realise it had some of the same characters as Life class she asked tactfully. In fact it really does help if you read Life class first. Although they can be read as standalone novels they work best together as a pair, rather like the brother and sister Toby and Elinore.
Life class is about the world of the Sla
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I admire Pat Barker's writing and really enjoyed the Regeneration trilogy but I just couldn't connect with this book about art students and the different paths they take during WW1. The book asks if art is important during a time of war and while I think it is, Elinor (who seems to represent this side of the discussion by remaining committed to her classes and painting) distanced herself so far from a war that held her lover and brother in its grips that it was very hard to relate to her perspec ...more
Givent that I completely adore the Regeneration trilogy, it is really upsetting to me that Pat Barker's other fiction leaves me feeling, for the most part, somewhat cold. I was hopeful that Barker's return to the WWI era would mean that this book would be as amazing as Regeneration et al, but unfortunately, it was a bit of a disappointment.

The best way to describe this book is slight: everything about it feels very lightly sketched, and what's more, as if seen from a great distance. I could nev
Catherine  Mustread
Feb 22, 2010 Catherine Mustread rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Catherine by: Regeneration Trilogy
My fourth Pat Barker book and probably my favorite so far. The Regeneration Trilogy dealt with the same time period, although perhaps later during World War One and the main characters were poets rather than artists, but all deal with the meaning of life, love and art and the relevance of the latter during war times. Other common themes include patriotism, pacifism, realism and idealism.
Life Class follows three London art students, Paul, Elinor and Neville from pre-war 1914 until late in 1915 w
In Life Class, Pat Barker explores the nexus between art and war. The first half of the book concerns three young people studying in a prestigious art school in London. These students are suffering from the anxieties typical of youth. Class barriers, the pressures of the school's demands, their professional futures, and ever at the forefront, their sexual desires? They spend their time going from class to cafe to night club ignoring the war clouds on the horizon. When it becomes impossible to ig ...more
Debbie Robson
Since I am now working on a novel about World War I, I was very interested to read Pat Barker’s Life Class. I’ve also been meaning to read her trilogy. Not sure that I will now. Life Class was such a disappointment on many levels. Firstly I had trouble getting into the head of both male characters. We initially spend a lot of time with Paul, his feelings and observations about people and things. That’s fine but his observations about the other male character Neville just don’t add up. He calls h ...more
Will Byrnes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Like Pat Barker’s hugely successful Regeneration trilogy ‘Life Class’ is set just before and during the First World War. As the novel opens Paul Tarrant an art student studying at the Slade School of art takes his place in the life drawing class tutored by the difficult Henry Tonks. Paul has a tough time under Tonks, leading him to even question his talent in his frustration. Paul and his artistic friends spend many evenings at the Café Royal, where he is introduced to Teresa, a beautiful troubl ...more
Jay Rubenstein
Historical fiction -- part romance, part WWI story, part depiction of the early twentieth-century English art scene. Although the war material is disturbing in its violence, somehow the romantic material in the first of half of the book was more unsettling still. On the down side, the two halves of the book don't quite hold together. But the main problem is that "Life Class" inevitably recalls Pat Barker's "Regeneration" trilogy, also about WWI, which is probably the best and most frightening wo ...more
Post Listen Review: I have to say that I would have enjoyed this more if the people next to me at work were quieter so I could have actually heard a bit more of it. But of course that has nothing to do with the book itself.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It's certainly better than a lot of books out there. It's about art students in a, you guessed it, Life Class just before world war one. It is very striking how it goes from a beautiful setting with leisurely art and calm times of people havin
Courtney Johnston
Pat Barker's books set in World War One continue to blow me away. Her “Regeneration” trilogy (“Regeneration,” “The Eye in the Door” and “The Ghost Road”) - centred on lightly fictionalised versions of the famous British war poets - were gruelling and transfixing, set on the front lines and in a psychiatric hospital for soldiers. "Life Class" is (relatively) less grim, revolving as it does around the lives of a group of Slade art school students at the outbreak and into the war.

The book opens wit
Paul is an art student in London leading up to the outbreak of World War I. He is dating a model but also enjoys the company of fellow student Elinor. Elinor is also being pursued by another art student. They sometimes go to her parents country house. Sometimes they go out drinking. Paul spends a lot of time worrying about the model's ex-husband. Once they go to the carnival. Really.
The first half of this book was a one star and I wasn't sure I was going to finish it. The pacing was slow (even f
Perhaps not quite as good as her Regeneration Trilogy, Life Class is still a wonderful book. It takes place (as did the trilogy) during World War I in both England and on the continent --- specifically in Belgium. This is a love story -- both between two young artists and for art itself. Ellena strives to break out of the stifling expectations of her class and sex (she is to marry and art is simply dabbling). Paul, a talented draftsman, has managed to make his way to London and the Slade though ...more
I found myself immediately settled into the atmosphere of pre-WW I England in Pat Barker's novel "Life Class." As someone interested in art, and in the role of artists in society, I thoroughly enjoyed Barker's scenes of her characters working, romancing, and competing with each other on the brink of the war and in during its initial intensity as England joins the conflict. Barker explores art as social commentary, artists as outside the social class considered "responsible" and artists who both ...more
Joan Colby
Barker has made the pre and post World War I era her own especially with the Regeneration Trilogy. This novel follows that theme with its principals Paul and Elinor thrust into wartime having met at the Slade in a Life Drawing class. Paul, rejected from the army due to a “weak chest”, volunteers as an ambulance driver and orderly in France while Elinor is accepted into Lady Ottoline Morrell’s circle. A rival for Elinor’s affections, Neville, is a secondary character as is the disturbed Teresa wi ...more
I read this after reading Toby's Room, as it involves the same characters and was written first - I wanted to fill in some of the gaps I felt were present in Toby's Room.

It did fill the gaps, but I didn't like it as much as a novel. I suppose because it was more of a conventional story - it was largely about sexual relationships and a love triangle. Like Tobys' Room, it deals with the First World War, but not from such an interesting angle. Much of the appeal of Toby's Room to me was the theme o
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
It feels odd to click on stars and say you "liked" this book, for it is such a devastating portrait of war. No matter that the two main characters are struggling artists, a man and a woman who may be in love -- the novel paints a piercing, bloody picture of the effects of World War I abroad and in London. And the war has just begun, forever changing the lives of many. I picked this up because of my interest in art, and yes -- there were some interesting angles on the obsessiveness of art and how ...more
In "Life Class", Barker revisits the psychological and physical devastation of WWI, which she explored so brilliantly in her Regeneration Trilogy. As in those novels, the "Life Class" cast of characters includes real people, such as Dr. Henry Tonks, who worked extensively with soldiers disfigured in the war. The novel concerns art students at the Slade at the start of the war. Elinor chooses to remain at home to pursue her art career (rather than volunteer as a nurse), while Paul volunteers with ...more
I discovered the writer, Pat Barker, while listening to the World Book Club podcast. She was being interviewed about her World War I novels. Barker is a historical novelist and her area of expertise is World War I. Life Class is about a small group of art students who become caught up in World War I. The main character is a young man named Paul Tarrant who is struggling to find out if he has the skills to be an artist. His love interest is a fellow art student, Elinor Brooke. Another art student ...more
R.J. Lynch
Thank you, Pat Barker.

I really enjoyed this book. Pat Barker knows her period well, but she never lets the weight of her research overpower the writing. This reader was drawn in from the first page (I'd put her in the Deborah Moggach class for the ability to hook the reader and make you really care about the characters and want to know what happens to them). Kit Neville is a bit of a cipher, but Paul Tarrant and Elinor are wholly rounded, alive and memorable. There were times when I had to put t
Paul is a struggling artist; struggling with his painting as well as with amorous liaisons. Elinor is his classmate at art school. They fall in love, but it is the eve of WW I. Paul volunteers for ambulance service and Elinor stays behind in London, determined to ignore the war to the best of her ability. While Paul is up to his neck in the most dehumanizing terrible side of war, Elinor swans around from party to party and paints only the English countryside she loves, as an antidote to the horr ...more
Barker is for me the best modern writer of the First World War, her Regeneration Trilogy is masterful, moving and thought provoking. Unfortunately I read Toby''s Room first last year and if anything I think this is even better. These two books do differ subtlety from the trilogy: the viewpoints are limited to the main protagonists, there's a central female character, the intrusion of real life figures seem less central although essential to the plots. But her writing is just so compelling, perfe ...more
Loosely based on the group of war artists tutored by Henry Tonks at The Slade, Barker creates a contrasting two parter. Part One tells of some pretty indulged lifestyles and some frivolous shenanigans as the 'young things' cruise around clubs and in and out of each other's beds while Paul (Nash?) is desperate to find his artistic vision. Part Two launches us into the horrors of the front line casualty clearing stations where Paul deals with amputations, gas poisonings and mortar attacks. Here, h ...more
Life Class is a companion piece to the more textured and complex Toby's Room also by Pat Barker. The characters are the same but in earlier stages of development and life. Life indeed is the class these self-absorbed nascent artists are thrown into by the advent of the 1st world war. The relationship between war and art is explored: should the devastating effects captured in art be displayed and to what purpose? Pat Barker's writing brought me firmly into the times, the moment and uncomfortably ...more
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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
More about Pat Barker...
Regeneration (Regeneration, #1) The Ghost Road (Regeneration, #3) The Eye in the Door (Regeneration, #2) Toby's Room The Regeneration Trilogy

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“...the white bowl of the street began to fill with darkness, from the pavement upwards, like somebody pouring tea into a cup.” 4 likes
“His happiness was almost painful, like circulation returning to a dead leg.” 3 likes
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