Toby’s Room – Pat Barker

I haven’t read any of Pat Barker’s novels. I always intended to, but somehow never managed it. I am glad I finally read something!

Here’s the blurb …

Toby and Elinor, brother and sister, friends and confidants, are sharers of a dark secret, carried from the summer of 1912 into the battlefields of France and wartime London in 1917. When Toby is reported ‘Missing, Believed Killed’, another secret casts a lengthening shadow over Elinor’s world: how exactly did Toby die – and why? Elinor’s fellow student Kit Neville was there in the fox-hole when Toby met his fate, but has secrets of his own to keep. Enlisting the help of former lover Paul Tarrant, Elinor determines to uncover the truth. Only then can she finally close the door to Toby’s room. Moving from the Slade School of Art to Queen Mary’s Hospital, where surgery and art intersect in the rebuilding of the shattered faces of the wounded, Toby’s Room is a riveting drama of identity, damage, intimacy and loss. It is Pat Barker’s most powerful novel yet.

┬áThe writing is beautiful – not a misplaced word. The characters are well-written (in all their selfish, obnoxious glory). The sense of time and place was well done and I found the bits about re-constructing the soldiers’ faces to be fascinating – if quite confronting.

I will definitely try to read more of Barker’s work (although I have an enormous to be read pile at the moment!).

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