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The Ghost Road

(Regeneration #3)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  14,762 ratings  ·  519 reviews
The final book in the Regeneration Trilogy, and winner of the 1995 Booker Prize
"The Ghost Road" is the culminating masterpiece of Pat Barker's towering World War I fiction trilogy. The time of the novel is the closing months of the most senselessly savage of modern conflicts. In France, millions of men engaged in brutal trench warfare are all "ghosts in the making." In
Paperback, First Plume Printing, 277 pages
Published November 1st 1996 by A William Abrahams Book/Plume (first published 1995)
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Megan Baxter
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
What becomes of us when all we know is death and killing, and that is taken away?

If that is the question being asked, the answer is not forthcoming. The book ends just before the war does, so we never get to see how any surviving characters would reintegrate into civilian life. From their worries, their neuroses, and what the experiences of warfare have done to them, the answer appears to be "not well." If the experiences of Rivers among the headhunters are instructive, particularly not well.

How do you review a book that you found … average?

A book that you suspect will disappear from your memory as soon as you pick up something else to read? My personality goes quite well both with rants about horrid books (Thank you, Coelho, writing a review on The Alchemist was a blast!) and with gushing about books that made me cry and laugh and shiver (yes, Of Human Bondage is still there with me in its entirety, long after closing the book with a sigh of sadness that the 700 page journey is
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war-novels
Last of an excellent trilogy and it does help to have read the previous two books as many of the characters run through them all and there are references back. You could read it as a standalone, but a good deal would be lost, especially the nuance.
We reconnect with characters from the previous books. There is very little of Sassoon and Owen is present in a small way; Prior and Rivers take centre stage. The narrative alternates between the two as they experience the last days of the war. We also

So mutters a horribly wounded Craiglockhart patient to his family and fiancée, as Rivers stands helplessly in attendance. ... his speech was incomprehensible. The wound to his lower jaw made it difficult to determine whether this represented a deficit in the power of using language, or whether the failure to communicate was entirely or primarily mechanical. He showed some understanding of speech, however ...

He suddenly realizes what the man is saying through his mangled face. (view
Aug 11, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is the third in a trilogy, and I have to admit that my reading probably suffered from not having read the first two volumes that form the story.
The novel opens in the final months before the end of World War I. The Narrator alternates points of view between Dr Rivers (a real historical figure) who treats shell-shocked and damaged men at a War Hospital and one of his former patients at the hospital, a young and not very likeable lieutenant.
From the beginning my interest was held by
Jul 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I can't say enough good about this trilogy. In an interview with Pat Barker, she described growing up in a home where she saw the lifetime of effects of WWI. Struggling with the effects of a war she didn't live through, her obsession lead to a brilliantly re-imagined world, much of it based on historical records.

She addresses the war from several angles: a brilliant psychologist, women who are freed to work in munitions factories, soldiers faced with moral and class conflicts.

The first book is
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Compared with (previous war novel read) “Empire of the Sun,” this WWI novel actually evades the battlefield, to the benefit of everyone, I suppose. No—this one is more “Best Years of Our Lives” with raunchy sex and modern yearnings for release, than, say, other bloody epics like "Gone with the Wind" or "The War at the End of the World" (I just noticed these are not WWII novels. Still). The men in "The Ghost Road" are basically hydra heads—they converge in their collective destroyed psyche—they ...more
Sep 24, 2008 rated it did not like it
The final installment of Pat Barker’s trilogy regains some of the cohesion lost in the second one, partly because it focuses more on Dr. Rivers’ past, and partly because Billy Prior — as repugnant as ever — finally returns to battle. What does it say when the horrors of trench warfare perk up a story?

A chunk of the narration takes place as Dr. Rivers battles influenza and his mind wanders back to the time he spent in Melanesia researching a tribe of head-hunters. Their barbaric thirst for heads
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible finale to an amazing trilogy. This trilogy about the psychological impacts of the Great War is impressive! The Ghost Road and part one: Regeneration were the best. In 'The Eye in the Door' , the character development of Lt. Prior was somewhat 'off'. It was a bit too much to handle. The final installment made up for a lot. The stories of both Prior and Rivers were fascinating. They came together in the end in a powerful and horrifying understanding of the impact of war, and the ...more
Sotiris Karaiskos
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-i
In the third book of the trilogy, we leave the rear to move to the heart of the battle, in the last days before the end of the war, when seemed that everything was over. The author describes life in the trenches, using raw language for the last lethal battles and cynicism - through her heroes - for the quietest moments that give the opportunity to challenge what they are doing.

At the same time, something very interesting, psychiatrist Rivers remembers his journey to the South Pacific where he
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A worthy Man Booker Prize winner. The story is the final in a trilogy about a homosexual officer in WW1 who is returning to the front for the fourth time after getting engaged to Sarah. He does not need to go but has a death wish. His psychiatrist Dr Rivers treats him and recalls his time in Melanesia amongst headhunters studying their culture. He compares their attitudes to death with the soldiers he treats.

The end of the war is near and Priors company is sent into a battle which is pointless.
I have just finished the book today and I have to say that it totally blew me away.

The third book of the trilogy centers mostly on two of all the characters who were present in the previous books, Rivers and Prior. Throughout the books the characters are developed into vivid, compelling, independent personalities. You can almost feel you knew them in real life after you finish the trilogy, they are so real, so well-developed.

Prior, as a character, shows all of his sides. He's witty,
I honestly think if the war went on for a hundred years another language would evolve, one that was capable of describing the sound of a bombardment or the buzzing of flies on a hot August day on the Somme. There are no words. There are no words for what I felt when I saw the setting sun rise.
I have a hypothesis that the muddled history I've internalized of whether The Lord of the Rings is a single work or a trilogy has something to do with the fact that reading Regeneration the way I did
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Regeneration Trilogy: I read these books in the late '90s, after Ghost Road was first published. I was in love with the British war poets of WWI at the time and this fit right in. I don't remember many details, but these books were great reads. Very athmospheric, accessible and captivating main characters, I suffered with them every step of the way.

P.S.: The movie is also very good.
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Barker's final volume of the "Great War Trilogy" does an admirable job of bringing the series to its expected but none-the-less tragic conclusion. Although The Ghost Road deserves the five stars I awarded it and the Booker prize, it does so in large measure because of what has come before. Barker has created a trilogy in which each volume points the way forward toward the inevitable ending, but in which the final volume suffuses the whole with a new level of meaning as the reader reflects on the ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I gobbled this up. It was a fine ending to a marvelous trilogy that brilliantly shows the side effects of the Allied forces having won. These are novels. One of the main characters, Billy Prior, is fictitious. But the doctors and some of the other patients were real people. In this last installment, Billy Prior returns to France and he serves with Wilfred Owen. Dr. Rivers continues to treat the battlefield mentally maimed. Interestingly, Rivers spends a lot of time in his memories of having ...more
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001-list-books
The Ghost Road is the third book in the Regeneration trilogy, and I have to say, I was disappointed. Rivers has moved to war torn London, still dealing with the young fall out from the devastating World War. Prior, a character from the periphery of Regeneration, who moved to the fore in The Eye In The Door, returns to France against Rivers's advice, and the story takes them both to the end of the War. In this respect, the novel was just as captivating and equally sobering as the first. What I ...more
Michael Robotham
Oct 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've enjoyed this trilogy and THE GHOST ROAD - a former Book Prize winner is perhaps my favourite of the three books.
Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
The Ghost Road, the final volume in Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy, won the Booker Prize when it was published in 1995. Set in the last months of the First World War, English society seems haunted by the country’s appalling losses. Every character seems to be grieving, or connected in some way to a dead soldier.

But it is not just the spirits of the war dead who haunt The Ghost Road. The exhausted Doctor Rivers is so drained by treating traumatized soldiers, that he himself is near a physical
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
This book brings the trilogy - a trio of books highly engaging and deeply important - to a crashing end. Barker returns to her characters Rivers and Prior, now well-loved by her readers, and uses them to explore the messy, stunted end of the war and the human debris it left in its wake as it stumbled to an end.

By splitting the narrative between protagonists, and through time, Barker emphasises the sense of fragmentation that governed the soldiers' war experience. Her individuals are caught
The final instalment in the Regeneration Trilogy struck me as a bit unfocused and heavy-handed in its use of symbolism and parallel storylines. However, certain scenes were very powerful, and the ending packed a punch.

I'm not sure why The Ghost Road rather than Regeneration or The Eye in the Door won the Booker Prize. I can only assume the Booker judges wanted to honour the trilogy somehow and so picked the last book to show their appreciation, much like the Academy showered The Return of the
The final novel in a trilogy about the ending of a monstrous war, WWI, supposedly the War to End All Wars. My husband and I listened to it on our recent trip. Given some of the more graphic descriptions of human depravity I don’t recommend the audio version. You can more easily skim over sections you don’t care to read with a written text v. an audio book. Undoubtedly it would have helped if we’d read the first two books, but it has made me more curious to read The Guns of August/The Proud Tower ...more
I saw the ending coming, which perhaps made this a little less gripping than the first two books in the trilogy. There is a certain sense of inevitability to it which lessens the tension—though I suppose it's fitting, given the subject matter and the protagonists' characters. The prose is as lucid and vivid as ever, beautifully constructed, and I was very impressed with how skilfully Barker drew parallels between the collapse of the long nineteenth century and the decay of the Melanesian ...more
Jul 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Helen by: sckenda
Shelves: world-war-1
Shattering. Just shattering. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise as I reached the last pages of this book.

I don't have time to write a proper review right now--for that, I point you to Sckenda's extremely excellent review, the one that inspired me to read the Regeneration trilogy.

Seems fitting to read it this summer, which marks 100 years since the beginning of this awesomely destructive, breathtakingly stupid and poorly-prosecuted war.

David Monroe
This is the 10th anniversary of first reading this amazing trilogy all the way through during a Summer Vacation. I really want to read these again this year. I actually would love to read them every 10 years and see how my thoughts and opinions change. If you get a chance, read this trilogy. Would definitively be on my 1,000 Books to Read before you die list.
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Now all roads lead to France” - Pat Barker quotes an Edward Thomas poem to start the descent into the hell that constitutes the final part of her acclaimed Regeneration Trilogy. But – be warned – The Ghost Road makes a major detour!

Much of the (remembered) action of this novel takes places not in France, but on the islands of Melanesia. That’s about as far away as you can get from the Somme! And this can be a serious let-down for readers particularly interested in the Great War.

As in the
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Why did I wait so long to finish reading this fantastic WW1 trilogy? This volume won the Booker Prize, and deservedly so. Different from the previous 2 titles, Siegfried Sassoon is not really present in this story, which focuses instead on Dr. Rivers and Billy Prior. The former has succumbed to Spanish influenza and is in a haze where he recalls his days as a missionary on a South Pacific island that venerates death. In his moments of lucidity he wonders about Prior's decision to return to ...more
Stephen McQuiggan
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Released from Craiglockhart hospital, Billy Prior is eager to return to the killing fields of France and wonders if he is sane. All is soaked in death - even sex, le petit morte, is vicious and cold; a parody of the slaughter it seeks to nullify. Simple, devastating, beautiful prose. For once the word 'triumph' is fully justified.
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Ghost Road by Pat Barker is the culmination of the Regeneration trilogy, which sets out ostensibly to press home to the reader not only the brutal horrors experienced by those who fought on the Western Front during the First World War but also how such appalling conditions affected them psychologically.

Where the first (Regeneration) and second (The Eye In The Door) instalments in the trilogy set out respectively to detail the treatment of those suffering mentally from being on the Western
Sam Quixote
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
"The Ghost Road" is set in the closing months of WW1 and alternates between a traumatised soldier, Billy Prior, and his physician WHR Rivers. Rivers' treatment of Prior's physical and mental wounds leaves him more or less sane but determined to return to the Front while Rivers continues his work, helping physically and mentally damaged men overcome their problems.

The book's focus on trauma and it's effects has never been done so well as in this book. Barker's presentation of soldiers who have
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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,

Other books in the series

Regeneration (3 books)
  • Regeneration (Regeneration, #1)
  • The Eye in the Door (Regeneration, #2)
“We are Craiglockhart's success stories. Look at us. We don't remember, we don't feel, we don't think - at least beyond the confines of what's needed to do the job. By any proper civilized standard (but what does that mean now?) we are objects of horror. But our nerves are completely steady. And we are still alive.” 18 likes
“Murder is only killing in the wrong place.” 12 likes
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