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The Regeneration Trilogy

(Regeneration #1-3)

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  2,093 ratings  ·  132 reviews
A trilogy of novels set during World War I which mingle real and fictional characters. The Ghost Road won the 1995 Booker Prize.
Hardcover, 592 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by Viking Books
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The novelists who wrote immediately after the war (or even during it) – Barbusse, Remarque, Manning, even Hemingway – were concerned mostly with getting down the facts: recording the realities of modern warfare before they allowed themselves to forget, before the details became incredible. Writers of subsequent generations cannot write what they know, and they need to do something else – bring some higher assessment of how people, and society, reacted to this cataclysm overall.

Doing this badly,
Feb 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A powerful reading experience, this is a book that one will be thinking about for a very long time. The writing is superb, the use of small, lovely details (sunlight reflecting on eyeglasses, rose petals, bubbles on the legs of a man resting in a fishpond, things seen only by starlight' etc., there are many more examples) against the backdrop of the vulgarity that was WWI, serve to make the book all the more moving. A sentence as simple as this is astounding within the context of the overall ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Some notes taken whilst reading all three parts of this trilogy consecutively. Overall, they give a very interesting perspective on the First World War and on groups of people that would normally not be given a voice.

Dr William Rivers is treating victims of shell-shock, including Siegfried Sassoon, who strikes up a friendship with Wilfred Owen. All this is factual. But there is also a character called Billy Prior, entirely fictional, who forms a relationship with the fictional Sarah
Aug 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This trilogy is a fascinating approach to WW I, using a handful of historical figures and one or two fictional characters to get into the psychology of the young Englishman who fought in the trenches of France. Book 1, Regeneration, is the story of Siegfried Sassoon's time at Craiglockhart Castle, Scotland, where he was being treated for "shell shock" (in Sassoon's case it was speaking out publicly against the war that made him unfit for service) by preeminent psychologist Dr. Jonathan Rivers. ...more
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While it's technically three novels, The Regeneration Trilogy is one story, and for convenience comes in a one-volume omnibus. Any of the parts could be read on its own—there's enough brief recap that one could be aware of the events of the other volumes without having read them, and as the trilogy is character-based rather than plot-based it won't befuddle anyone who jumps in at the middle. However, to do so would do the story an immense disservice. Read in its proper order, Regeneration forms ...more
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Rob Twinem
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
It was with great anticipation that I turned my inquisitive reading mind towards Pat Barker’s 1st WW extravaganza The Regeneration Trilogy. The paperwork version, of this former booker prize winner, boasts just under a 900 page word count and demands some serious attention and dedicated reading time. Having recently reread and loved Sebastian Faulks monumental Birdsong, I was hopeful that Regeneration would provide equal if not better stimulus.
In reality The Regeneration Trilogy (as the name
Ruth Zaryski Jackson
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant must-read especially for anyone interested in World War One and shell shock. An unsentimental, raw and intimate trilogy featuring historically accurate figures such as war poets, Sigfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, and anthropologist/doctor W.H.R.Rivers. Read it!
May 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Grim, just awful. I've given it 2* because I did get through it, interested to discover what happened to her OCs - so that's a big plus for Barker. Everything else is a minus.

I suppose it's not Pat Barker's fault she wrote this before Max Egremont got access to Sassoon's diaries for Siegfried Sassoon: A Life or Cambridge University Press published them, but Sassoon's autobiographical The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston had been around for 70 years and are much more worthwhile to read. Not to
Peter Black
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Insightful, illuminating, well-written account of the impact of WW1 on the lives and minds of those who lived and fought in it.

The understanding of psychology and the use of historical figures throughout the book, combined with fine descriptive writing brings the era and characters to life.

I learnt a great deal about the period, complementing the knowledge acquired in my previous non-fiction reading.

My volume had 900 pages, which I read in 8 days, a testament to the quality of the book,
The third part, The Ghost Road comes through after a long introduction and slow middle part. The end however is where Pat Barker brings all points of view to a full circle. Barker stands aside and narrates a story like an observer - its harsh, brutal and engaging.
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my absolute favorite books of all time. A beautiful, heartbreaking (and historically correct!) story by a fantastic writer.
Rich Y
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While most of the reviews on this website are of books the reader has just finished, I think there is also a longer term impact that leads one to another kind of consideration - the ways in which novels can echo in your mind over time. This trilogy (which I read seven years ago) stands deep in my emotional memory - it brought home the horrors of WWI in a way that no other reading had for me. They bring forth an internal sadness and visceral revulsion that seem fresh whenever Barker's books or ...more
Kaye McSpadden
Jul 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-fiction
I just finished the first book of the trilogy, entitled "Regeneration." I have mixed feelings about it. The story focuses on the treatment of World War I soldiers who have experienced psychiatric breakdowns and disorders as a result of the horrors of war. There is also an underlying discussion of the morality and ethics of war itself.

On the one hand, I enjoyed learning a little bit about the emerging views of post-combat psychiatric trauma, and I appreciated the fact that several of the
Bevan Lewis
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The forthcoming anniversary of the Great War should provide some motivation for readers to revisit, or discover this trilogy from the nineties. Acclaimed at the time (topped off by a Booker Prize for the last in the series The Ghost Road) it has been on my 'to read' list for many years. The story centres around an institution for mentally ill soldiers near Edinburgh, and psychologist W H Rivers. A particular focus is his relationship with patient Siegfried Sassoon and the moral
Hard hitting, thought provoking and moving, this is an excellent trilogy set during the First World War. It deals largely with the psychological effects/trauma that the war had on the men who fought as well as various social issues of the time. These are books that do not shy away from the life-changing impact that the war had on the people involved and they make for some very emotive reading. The amount of research that Pat Barker has done into the subject is astonishing and the whole thing ...more
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's hard to imagine a more beautiful, more sublime or complex series of books than these by Pat Barker. I said in a recent conversation that they don't even feel as if they were written by a particular person, but that they just appeared, fully formed, to show us all that we need to know about how humans attempt to deal with tragedy; to live with the unlivable. War and its aftermath come to occupy the same place and time in these three books, inextricably linked in a society that does not yet ...more
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
The first novel in this trilogy presents us with victims of "shell shock" and other "war neuroses" being treated Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh during WWI. Barker bases some of her characters on historical figures such as poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen and the man who led their treatment. Some of the details are brutal, but the writing is excellent, the characters Barker creates compelling. The inclusion of female munitions workers adds a perspective not usually found in either ...more
John Dolan
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Much has been written of Pat Barker's stunning trilogy, and for good reason. It's a brilliant take on the Great War, and not one overwhelmed with images of blood and barbed wire. For me, it's right up there with 'All Quiet on the Western Front' and 'Birdsong'. Lyrical, poignant and touching. In short, a striking achievement.
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read all three novels in this Regeneration series in one reading event, as though they were one book. And this may be the reason that (a) Books 2 and 3 made such sense and the characters in particular were recognisable, following on immediately from the previous book, and (b) I was ready for the series to be over by the time I got to the end of Book 3.

I ordered this trilogy online following reviews that said Pat Barker knows WWI better than any other living writer. A previous novel I'd read
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am torn between giving this trilogy 3 and 4 stars. I loved the first book, it's just what I was hoping it would be. Pat Barker writes so evocatively and heart-breakingly about the war and the people caught up in it. I didn't know much at all about the methods they used to treat shell-shock, so that side of it was super interesting. And I loved that it followed real life people like Rivers and Sassoon (which I'd initially thought I wouldn't really enjoy as I get irritated when authors attribute ...more
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is beautifully written, it's funny and sad, it's insightful and because it's about life during the Great War, really, really interesting (to me at least). With a diverse structure and some great characters (beautifully handled) and a meandering story line that adds to ones view of the world at the turn of the century along with some oh, so recognizably human relationships.

I gave it 3 stars overall and would have given it five (I enjoyed (most of) it that much) except for the absolute
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, my friend, you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for some desperate glory, the old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori." Wilfred Owen, Dulce Et Decorum Est.

In this emotive series of novels, we see the struggles of Owen and his contemporaries. These books give a deeply human account of those whose
Apr 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buy, borrow
First read it on/ around april 28, 2000.
Reread it.
Remarkable how much I remembered - both of the plot, as of the horrors described. Truth been told, the actual plot didn’t interest me, isn’t that strange? Perhaps a reason might be I am not British, my passport country didn’t participate in WWI.
No, what did interest me, a lot, was the first book: Nomansland. Sassoon. And to my surprise, 19 years later, this was still true. I liked the setting, the characters and the interactions. I liked them
Jan Priddy
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read the trilogy a few years ago and found it spectacular!

Barker has a new novel coming out next year (I hope) of The Iliad from the viewpoint of a woman. It's about time we heard from Her. I have the new translation of The Odyssey translated for the first time by a woman and there is Le Guin's retelling of Cicero's Aeneid from the POV of Lavinia, a significant character who is unvoiced in that poem.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book hard going but I felt the need to finish it. There are quite a few different story lines each portrayed in great depth and very dipictive. Some parts very graphic and not for the faint hearted reader. Interesting to know that some of the characters did exist. I really felt I knew each character really well by the end. It does give you a real atmospheric read of what it must have been like for those who endured WW1.
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
hese three novels—Regeneration (1991), The Eye in the Door (1993), and The Ghost Road (1995)—offer an unflinching look at World War I. Starting with the real-life psychiatric treatment of poet and British officer Sigfried Sassoon for shellshock, Barker shows how the war ruined but failed to replace nineteenth-century norms of gender, class, sexuality, and honor. ...more
Brenda Marean
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read with the knowledge that a new documentary about WW1 was released at the end of 2018. Events took place over a hundred years ago when soldiers were often bayonetted to death. The introduction to Sigfried Sassoon and William Owen was very interesting as was the psychiatric treatment of patients by W.A. Rivers. Rivers was an early believer in talk therapy to work through shell shock.
Paul A.M.
I read the first book of the trilogy, which was lovely and I really enjoyed it, but I could not get on with the subsequent books, so failed to complete the trilogy. The book is still on my shelf, so I may return to them one day.
Barbara Lloyd
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a lovely man Rivers was. Pat Barker’s descriptions of his own struggle with mental health and his conscience over the treatment of his men made for a truly memorable read. Yealland, on the other hand .... barbaric, torturing monster! Such an insight on the times they were living in.
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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)
  • The Ghost Road (Regeneration, #3)
“And the Great Adventure - the real life equivalent of all the adventure stories they'd devoured as boys - consisted of crouching in a dugout, waiting to be killed. The war that had promised so much in the way of 'manly' activity had actually delivered 'feminine' passivity, and on a scale that their mothers and sisters had hardly known. No wonder they broke down.” 2 likes
“In leading his patients to understand that breakdown was nothing to be ashamed of, that horror and fear were inevitable responses to the trauma of war and were better acknowledged than suppressed, that feelings of tenderness for other men were natural and right, that tears were an acceptable and helpful part of grieving, he was setting himself against the whole tenor of their upbringing. They’d been trained to identify emotional repression as the essence of manliness.” 0 likes
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