Regeneration by Pat Barker (February 2014 – Halesworth Book Group)

Pat Barker B 1943 / LSE. / Teacher of history and politics / Regeneration 1993

A soldiers declaration, July 1917. Resonant with the Anti Gove

Gove: “Our understanding of the war has been overlaid by misunderstandings, and misrepresentations which reflect an, at best, ambiguous attitude to this country  and, at worst, an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage. The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely War, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite. Even to this day there are Left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths.”

Windows, views from and light from, are dominant throughout the book. Rivers, watching out of the window, the arrival of Sasson at Craiglockheart.

Like during the Board interviews, Rivers getting up and guided the bunble bee to the outside.

Dialogue rich

Rivers central character, occupy his mind, (near a window)

Dry humour of Rivers

‘That fella you put in my room – is he a German spy?

‘No I don’t think so. They never call themselves Siegfied/

Burns – thrown in the air by explosion landed head first on a Germans corpse whose gas filled belley had ruptured on impact. Before he lost contact, he was aware that what filled his nose and mouth was decomposing human flesh

Captain Graves

Anderson – soldier doctor – the straw was a missed wound, watching a young lad heamorage to death. Plays golf with Sassoon.

Prior – silent, used notes


‘There’s 2 L’s in physically, Prior, now open wide’

Loosing weight.

How did it feel? Sexy.

He’d lied to Rivers. It was a point of honour to lie at least once a sesson to Rivers.

Meets Sarah Lumb.

Challenges Rivers stammer (one of the few who didn’t stammer)

Under hypnosis relays death of 2 men, eye ball jettisoning ‘gob stopper’

Prior and Rivers banter. This is the Club to end all Clubs

Not all the characters are real people. Billy Prior is the most important invented character in Regeneration (and in the two subsequent volumes of the trilogy) and is given attributes that galvanise the fiction. He is socially and sexually ambiguous. Though he is an officer (for only officers get to be treated at Craiglockhart) he comes from a working-class background. He is an interloper, angrily observing the snobbery and smugness of the officer class. Having recreated a world rather than inventing it, the novelist needs licence to see it from an angle that no amount of historical research could provide. Billy Prior gives her that angle.

Owen – stammering, Everything about Sassoon intimidated him

Working with Sassoon on Anthem for  Doomed Youth

Willard – injury to spine, wasted legs, but no symptoms. ‘Cannot walk because does not want to go back’

Willard knew his spinal cord was broken, and that Rivers had reconnected both ends.

‘Indeed after observing Rivers acknowledge one particularly sizzling salute, Brock was heard to murmer ‘And for my next trick I shall walk on water’.

Siegfried’s introversion was remarkable, even by the normal standards of unhappy men. His love for his men cut through the absorbtion, but Rivers wondered wheather anything else did.

Seigfried and Owne collaboration

What passing bells for those who die so fast

The most powerful evidence of their rapport is the manuscript of Owen’s poem “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, which is covered with amendments in Sassoon’s handwriting. Barker makes out of this an intense dialogue between the two men in which Sassoon – the more confident of the two – pushes Owen to find the “better” words.

Rivers on leave – Aldeburgh, at the end of the line, to see Burns. After the walk to Thorpness, the sight of fish heads discarded on the beach, turned Burns. Night walking, Rivers found Burns, ‘Come on David’, Rag doll

Placement in time – Darwin’s theory of evolution which had achieved acceptance in some circles


‘No sign of organic disease

Will it hurt?

I realise you did not intend to ask that question so i will overlook it

Lighted cigarettes on the tongue

The Electrical Room with Callan

I do not like your smile, i find it most objectionable

In the dream he seemed to be congratulating himself on treating patients more humanly than Yellard. In the dream he stood iin Yellards place . There is no distinction. A horses bit.

The Soloman Island anecdote, More the Great White God de-throwned. Not only we were not the measure of all things, there was no measure

Sason before the Board. Sassoon leaving. With a desire to be killed?

‘If anything he was amused by the irony of the situation, that he, who was in the business of changing people, should himself hve been changed and by somebody who was clearly unaware of having done it.

Not only Siegfried, but all of them. From a conservative introverted young man with stammer, he was being forced into conflict with the authorities over a very wide range of issues

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