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(Regeneration #1)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  27,792 ratings  ·  1,710 reviews
The modern classic of contemporary war fiction from Women's Prize-shortlisted author of The Silence of the Girls

Recommended by Richard Osman

Regeneration is the first novel in Pat Barker's Booker Prize-winning Regeneration trilogy - a powerfully moving portrait of the deep legacy of human trauma in the First World War

'Brilliant, intense and subtle' Peter Kemp, Sunday Times
Paperback, 252 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Penguin (first published May 30th 1991)
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Reggie Martell If you're not familiar with historical fiction, fan-fiction is serviceable analogy for getting a toehold on the genre. Fan-fiction essentially extends…moreIf you're not familiar with historical fiction, fan-fiction is serviceable analogy for getting a toehold on the genre. Fan-fiction essentially extends a narrative, beyond the scope of the original authors' story. Historical fiction extends stories in a similar way, but its antecedent source materials are non-fiction rather than fiction. It's based upon events that take place outside of the literal world, in our "real world" (as we swing well wide of addressing the nature of "reality")

There's a qualitative element too. Fan-fic is very much an outlet of amateur aficionados, implicitly if not explicitly. Historical fiction is a widely used sub-genre in the publishing industry and carries no caveats about literary value. (less)

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Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Agony in the Garden 1917

Historical fiction is the antithesis of murder mystery. We already know who done it, how it was done, and why. The only possible plot involves the psychological drama which lies behind the action, not the motive but the motivating forces which establish the dramatic tension that leads to a motive.

So from the start the reader knows the outcome of Regeneration: Siegfried Sassoon goes back on the line. He needn’t have gone back to the front; he was already a decorated hero w
“If you were born in a country or at a time not only when nobody comes to kill your wife and your children, but also nobody comes to ask you to kill the wives and children of others, then render thanks to God and go in peace. But always keep this thought in mind: you might be luckier than I, but you’re not a better person.”

-Jonathan Littell, The Kindly Ones
This is war. This is not honor. This is not glory. This is not right. This is not just. This is not a game played with lives and loves an
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-novels
The first volume in Pat Barker’s First World War trilogy; and what an excellent start and a brilliant weaving of fact and fiction. I already knew about Craiglockhart and the hospital for those with “shellshock” and breakdown with the pioneering psychologist Rivers. Siegfried Sassoon’s stay there is well documented in Max Egremont’s excellent biography. He is a central part of this novel and his interactions with Rivers and Wilfred Owen (whom he encouraged to write poetry). Robert Graves also pop ...more
Sep 21, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
Recommended to Stephanie by: A professor I like too much to ever show this review to
I am not giving this book one star because I find the subject matter troubling or because I'm not used to required reading.

I am giving this book one star because it is overrated, self-serving junk. Pat Barker has plucked from history characters that were perfectly capable of speaking for themselves (we know this because most of them were writers) and forced into them her own flat, inexperienced voice. It seems as though, for many people, the book's politics make up for its nonexistent plot, endl
It has been more than four years since I read this novel. Thus, I am now just contributing impressions and integrating some background on the historical characters brought to life in the book. For a fresh and rich thematic response to the book, I would I recommend highly the reviews by Steve Sckenda and James Henderson.

I appreciated the in-depth character study of William Rivers, the psychologist treating shell shock victims at Craiglockhart War Hospital. His empathy for those broken men and t
My experience with this World War I trilogy is bumpy, to say the least.

Starting by reading The Ghost Road without knowing it was the last in the series, I was not impressed. I have difficulties with historical fiction which mixes fictional characters with historical persons in a speculative interpretation of history. But considering the unfairness of judging a series after reading only the conclusion, I now embarked on the first one. Thus I find myself doing what Carol Ann Duffy did with the mos
Richard Derus
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 5* of five

The Publisher Says: Regeneration, one in Pat Barker's series of novels confronting the psychological effects of World War I, focuses on treatment methods during the war and the story of a decorated English officer sent to a military hospital after publicly declaring he will no longer fight. Yet the novel is much more. Written in sparse prose that is shockingly clear -- the descriptions of electronic treatments are particularly harrowing -- it combines real-life characters and e
I have found all of Pat Barker's books that I have read fascinating, and I especially like the Regeneration trilogy. (Regeneration, The Eye In The Door, The Ghost Road) These novels, about the psychological toll that World War I exacted on some of its (at least temporary) survivors, are wrenching. I've always been fascinated by World War I, especially from the English perspective. What a way to start the twentieth century; and of course, rather than a war to end wars, it was merely an introducti ...more
Joey Woolfardis
I find it a bit difficult to rate this book. In terms of subject matter-mental illness brought on by the First World War-it is one of the most important in history. In terms of the way it was written, it's not the best book by any means. In terms of character, it's quite interesting but lacking. In terms of exploration, it ventures no farther than the shrubbery.

The writing was mediocre, in all honesty. The flow of paragraphs was often rather disjointed, though one could attribute that to the who
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am lost for words as to how good this novel is. To think that Barker, who was born in 1943 can write a novel which transports the reader into the horrors and the carnage of the trenches of World War 1 so effectively is amazing. Barker’s writing enabled me to see, and feel, the horrendous damage, physical and mental, that these soldiers had to endure. Her writing opens, and explores the ravaged and war damaged psyche. Before this war started, the term “Shell Shock” didn’t even exist. We now kno ...more
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brits
Everyone Sang

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on--on--and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away ... O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

Siegfried Sassoon

Freedom, winging wildly. Young Siegfried must have felt
Joy D
Set in 1917 at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland, protagonist Dr. William Rivers, a psychiatrist, treats patients suffering from a variety of war-related mental disorders. One of the primary characters is Siegfried Sassoon, a decorated officer, who has written an anti-war declaration, but is torn between dedication to his men and a belief that the slaughter must stop. Dr. Rivers is charged with evaluating Sassoon.

The storyline illustrates the methods practiced by Dr. Rivers, how the patien
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finished with the War
A Soldier's Declaration

I am making this statement as an act of willful defiance of military authority, because I believe the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.

I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defense and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest…

This is a completely revised review of the book.

the first edition (1991) cover, Peng

This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.
Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War... All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful .

In 1917 poet Sigfrid Sassoon terrified by the scale of war massacre made a statement called A Soldier's Declaration in which announced that could no longer be a soldier and wouldn’t come back on the front. Because of that he la
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want to see the flipside of WW1
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
World War I and World War II were very different kinds of war. If you peak around the edges of history, from an outside perspective, it may not seem so. And admittedly World War I and World War II were notably linked by the repeat performance given by a number of major players who exhibited short fuses and shorter memories over a period of less than twenty years. War is war you may think; people are engaged in mind blowingly brutal acts of killing and survival, reduced to pinprick statistics of ...more
Dawn (& Ron)
Dec 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWI, miltary & historical fiction fans
Upon finishing the book, my mind was absolutely quiet, almost numb, as if there were too many thoughts to assimilate and I needed to let it all soak in. Like the patients with their experiences, this book can't be rushed, you can't quickly brush past one passage to go the next. Each person's thoughts and memories need to marinate, allowing their individual flavors to meld together, in order to enjoy its overall effect. It is profound and thought provoking, and deserves to be mentioned alongside ...more
Interesting historical novel set in hospital for officers recovering from shellshock during the first world war. I found the portrayals of the historical characters more convincing than the fictional character of Billy Prior, which led me to give up reading the trilogy midway through the second book.

The book opened a brief but interesting controversy over the techniques used by Dr Yealland to cure the inability to speak caused by shellshock which some soldiers suffered from during WWI. In Barker
A book about the First World War has to be an anti-war book, even if it was released long before the hype of the Centennial 2014-18. And 'Regeneration' by Pat Barker certainly is such a book: the testimonies of the horrors in the trenches are scattered throughout the book, but the emphasis is on the shocking consequences for the survivors. Barker uses a number of real historical characters (including the poets Sassoon and Owen) and a few fictional ones to illustrate different aspects of what a w ...more
William Gwynne
My performance of a Sassoon poem can be found here - The Poet As Hero

“Fear, tenderness - these emotions were so despised that they could be admitted into consciousness only at the cost of redefining what it meant to be a man.”

Regeneration is a story inspired by true events of World War One. Centres around the now famous war poet, Siegfried Sassoon, and his inspiring of Wilfred Owen, the story takes place in a hospital called Craiglockhart, for those suffering shell shock, PTSD.

It is a story of i
Larry Bassett
I have returned to this book four years later and listened to it in the Audible version. Four years ago I had sought out the other two books in the trilogy expecting to read them but in the interim have Become almost exclusively an audible reader. And now I have those same other two books in the audible versions and believe I have more determination to follow up with them immediately. My experience in rereading this book did not cause me to change my star rating.

In the intervening four years I h
This review was written in the late nineties (for my eyes only), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently when I uncovered the journal in which it was written. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets may indicate some additional information for the sake of readability or some sort of commentary from now). This is one of my lost reviews.

Rarely is a book's theme so fittingly captured in a title than it is with Pat Barker's Regeneration. As Dr.
Clif Hostetler
Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A case could be made that the misery and suffering endured by those serving in combatant roles by European soldiers of WWI were the most extreme of any war in history. (I explicitly limit this generalization to soldiers from European countries [including Canada, Australia and New Zealand] because they were in the trenches for four full years whereas American soldiers were engaged in active combat for less than a year.)

This novel is therefore particularly poignant because it provides a psycholog
Perhaps even 4½ stars. This historical-fiction novel centers around the poet Siegfried Sassoon and his psychiatrist Dr. Rivers during his stay at the mental hospital Craiglockhart during 1917.

The central theme is conflict between duty and survival which Rivers recognizes as the basis for most of the cases of "war neurosis", shell shock or as we now call it PTSD. Where do we draw the line between a soldier's duty and a completely reasonable desire to survive? The heart-wrenching part was the fac
Like so much other contemporary literary fiction, this was just meh. It was words on a page. It wasn't compelling, I didn't like it more than I disliked it or vice versa. In many ways it was like another meh book, Homer & Langley: historical fiction, based on a true story, with imagined conversations and fabricated details. The real story is always more interesting to me. I don't see the point of books like these. I don't understand why so many people read them, and literary award juries dote on ...more
Jan 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Pat Barker – Regeneration 1991

This is the first novel in Pat Barkers Regeneration trilogy of books, set during the First World War. 'Regeneration' is set within the framework of a mental hospital for officers, centered around Craiglockheart, Edinburgh during 1917. This historical/fictional novel is essentially based on historical figures; W.E. Rivers, a social anthropologist and psychiatrist and his treatment of shellshock victims of the Great War and among his patients are one Siegfried Sassoon
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have been meaning to read Pat Barker's Regeneration - the 'classic exploration of how the traumas of war brutalised a generation of young men' - for such a long time, but only got around to it very recently.  Probably her most famous novel, Regeneration has been considered a modern classic since its publication in 1991, and is the first book in a trilogy of the same name.  The book has been highly praised.  Margaret Forster calls it 'a novel of tremendous power', the Sunday Times 'brilliant, i ...more
Natalie Richards
Dec 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-book
Really enjoyed this and I'm looking forward to reading the next two in the trilogy. ...more
Found this a difficult book to rate. It's a novel that has been recommended many times and my expectations were high. In some ways I was searching for another Parade's End.

A novel of the futility and horror of war. Young men psychologically maimed sent home to be "cured" and then to return to the front lines and face the horror again.

Found this disjointed in parts and it did bog down at times.

Unsure exactly why I didn't have some completeness on finishing this, I just felt a sense of remoteness
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (20
Shelves: 1001-core
Edinburg, Scotland, 1917. Siegfried Sassoon, a 31-y/o poet and a decorated soldier started a protest against the ongoing WWI in France. This protest led him to be labeled as "shell shocked" and be confined at Craiglockhart Hospital under the care of an army psychiatrist, Dr. Rivers. Among the patients in the hospital were those who were truly suffering from the war trauma: another poet, Wilfred Owen who was able to polish his talent in writing under Sassoon; Billy Prior, an on-off mute who had a ...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. She's married and lives in Durham, Engla

Other books in the series

Regeneration (3 books)
  • The Eye in the Door (Regeneration, #2)
  • The Ghost Road (Regeneration, #3)

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“Sometimes, in the trenches, you get the sense of something, ancient. One trench we held, it had skulls in the side, embedded, like mushrooms. It was actually easier to believe they were men from Marlborough's army, than to think they'd been alive a year ago. It was as if all the other wars had distilled themselves into this war, and that made it something you almost can't challenge. It's like a very deep voice, saying; 'Run along, little man, be glad you've survived” 34 likes
“Somehow if she'd know the worst parts, she couldn't have gone on being a haven for him...Men said they didn't tell their women about France because they didn't want to worry them. but it was more than that. He needed her ignorance to hide in. Yet, at the same time, he wanted to know and be known as deeply as possible. And the two desires were irreconcilable.” 29 likes
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