Debbie Robson's Reviews > Life Class

Life Class by Pat Barker
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's review
Jun 27, 10

it was ok
Read from June 19 to 23, 2010

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 him bitter and malicious. There is none of that conveyed in the prose. We are only told “by Paul” that he is. I then found the problem continued when the story shifted to Neville’s point of view. Again there was conflicting observations (and not in the manner of “we can never know anyone else”) just not tallying with what Neville was actually doing as opposed to what the other two characters were actually thinking about him.

When the action did shift to Elinor I felt more comfortable and was starting to enjoy the novel until the letters began.

I found these so frustrating. Not only hadn’t I really believed from the beginning that it was 1914 but here was the author’s chance to entrench it with the dates at the top of the letters and the location of where the writer was writing from. Instead we only have “Elinor to Paul” and “Paul to Elinor.” There is nothing to indicate the passing of time and when the first lot of letters finished I just didn’t know whether it was still August, 1914 or was it 1915 or possibly even 1916? I could only guess that presumably months had passed from what the main characters were writing about. I found this so annoying! Without the indication of the passage of time the letters are just meaningless and they could have conveyed so much more.

I did want to enjoy this novel but found I only, unreservedly, liked the passage with Elinor alone in France. Hate to give it just 2 stars but with all these problems (as I found them) I have no choice. Would love another reader’s opinion and will shortly go off and read some other reviews of this book.

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06/19/2010 page 62
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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caroline I completely agree with your assessment. As an artist, I also had difficulty believing the attitudes of the artists (except perhaps Paul, at times) I was especially put off by Elinor's comment that she "sees" as an artist and doesn't "think". Phooey.

Debbie Robson Thanks so much. Sometimes you wonder if you are in a bad mood or something and just being picky but I was mainly just so disappointed. More so than ever because I am myself writing a WWI novel.
If you are interested in the trials and tribulations of actually trying to be as accurage as possible in an historical novel, have a look at my blog.
best wishes

Robert Ronsson I suggest you should still read the Regeneration Trilogy as part of the research for your novel. the books are so much better than Life Class.

Debbie Robson Well that's good to hear. I haven't read them and I was going to until I read Life Class. Will put them back on my TBR pile.

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