Length: 288 pages
About: Psychiatrist's concern for WW1 soldier patients
Style: 1st & 3rd person
Where: England and France
1918, and Billy Prior is in France once again. A real test case for the ‘shell-shock’ therapies practised at Craiglockhart War Hospital where, with Wilfred Owen, he was a patient. Prior
experiences a late-summer idyll, some days of perfect beauty, before the final battles in a war that has destroyed most of his generation. In London, Prior’s psychologist, William Rivers, tends to
his new patients, more young men whose lives and minds have been shattered. And remembers the primitive society on Eddystone Island where he studied as an anthropologist before the war.
Rivers wondered whether Sassoon and Harrington had been too much in the forefront of his mind while he was listening to Wansbeck. At best, on such occasions, one became a conduit whereby one man’s
hard-won experience of self-healing was made available to another. At worst, one no longer listened attentively enough to the individual voice. There was a real danger, he thought, that in the end
the stories would become one story, the voices blend into a single cry of pain.
The carnal wit of Prior's voice marks out The Ghost Road as an important book. With his divided sexual and class loyalties, he seems a very contemporary figure, yet also a fitting monument to the
mounds of historical dead. The poet Geoffrey Hill said that how we are disposed - sexually or otherwise - makes no difference. It is another disposal, the casual shovelling away of the blasted
bodies, that counts. To have recognised this, and the pity of this, is Pat Barker 's achievement.
The Guardian, Giles Foden 8 November 1995 for full review click here
Not so good:
These last scenes are as tersely lyric and stunned with meaninglessness as the work of the soldier-poets the author has drawn on. She does not choose to relate how the following week, just as
church bells were ringing the Armistice, the telegram announcing Owen's death arrived at his parents' door. This did happen -- but it seems too literary a touch, too artistically rounded, too
almightily knowing for the stories the war taught us to tell.
The New York Times, Claudia Roth Pierpoint, 31st December 1995 for full review click
About the author
Pat Barker was born in Yorkshire in May 1943. Her trilogy of novels about the First World War, which began with Regeneration in 1991, was partly inspired by her grandfather’s experiences fighting
in the trenches in France. Regeneration was made into a film in 1997 starring Jonathan Pryce and James Wilby. The Eye in the Door (1993), the second novel in the trilogy, won the Guardian Fiction
Prize, and The Ghost Road (1995), the final novel in the series, won the Booker Prize for Fiction. Pat Barker was awarded a CBE in 2000. Pat Barker lives in