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Toby's Room

(Life Class #2)

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  3,969 ratings  ·  553 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 Britai
Hardback, 320 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Doubleday (first published January 2012)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  3,969 ratings  ·  553 reviews

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Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-one
Somehow I have managed to read the second volume of this trilogy first. Life Class is the first and I will read that next. It is a stand-alone novel though. There is an awful lot going on here. The obvious link is Virginia Woolf’s war novel Jacob’s Room, and, of course, Toby was the name of Woolf’s brother and a brother sister relationship is an integral part of this novel.
Barker has taken a group of artists studying at The Slade to examine what the role of the artist is during wartime. The firs
Sep 05, 2012 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 …

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
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Julie Christine
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
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 07, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Dead John Williams
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
Not having read anything previously by this author I came to it fresh, as it were, with no pre-conceptions or expectations. I was very disappointed, the characters for the most part were bland and very poorly fleshed out. The one character that wasn't bland was inexplicably loud without any real explanation as to why.

The "shocking" scene very early on in the book was not picked up later on and I could not understand why it was included in the first place as it had no relevance to the story or th
Aug 16, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
Jenny Cooke (Bookish Shenanigans)
I can't believe that I've left this book unread for so many years, I loved this so much! ...more
Aug 25, 2020 marked it as to-read
*Regeneration 3 stars
*Life Class4 stars
*Toby's Room TBR
*Noonday TBR
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I actually enjoyed this more than Life Class though that was beautifully written and gripping too, because the character of Elinor is so well drawn. She is complex and fascinating. I felt huge sympathy for her in her confusion. The final chapters with Paul and Kit were also extraordinary. An engaging love story. The characters felt real.

Barker is such a good writer, very economical but direct. Highly recommend.
'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
Dec 30, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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

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. ...more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The second volume in Barker's second trilogy about the effects of WW I on three young people. Actually it's much more than that, since these characters seem to generalize the effects of any war on anybody. The main question here (among many others) is what has really happened to the older brother of the young heroine--he is reported missing and presumed dead in a battle near Ypres. How long can you maintain hope that he is still alive? And if he isn't, exactly what happened? I have some personal ...more
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Kay Wright
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
MisterLiberry Head
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 surg
Alice Meloy
Sep 08, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
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
Nov 05, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jun 30, 2012 rated it liked it
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 64 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. She's married and lives in Durham, Engla

Other books in the series

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

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