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The Ghost Road by Pat Barker

The Ghost Road (original 1995; edition 2008)

by Pat Barker (Author)

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2,221502,912 (3.99)283
Title:The Ghost Road
Authors:Pat Barker (Author)
Info:Penguin UK (2008), 288 pages
Collections:read in 2017, Read but unowned

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The Ghost Road by Pat Barker (1995)



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English (47)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  All (50)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
The Ghost Road by Pat Barker is the third volume in her First World War trilogy. These books took a very different look at World War I and she did so by mixing real life characters with fictional ones and basing most of her story away from the actual battlefield. This volume concentrates on real life psychoanalyst, William Rivers and the fictional working-class officer, Billy Prior.

William Rivers pioneered the treatment of shell shock, and Billy Prior was one of his patients. By this volume we are nearing the end of World War I, but Billy Prior is going back to the front, knowing as we do that the end is near makes the slaughter all the more senseless. Dr Rivers meanwhile goes on to treat new cases and explores his memories of his research in Melanesia where he tried to understand a people who relished head-hunting. The comparison of this carefully carried out ritual contrasted vividly with the messy butchering that was going on at the Front.

Although you don’t have to have read the previous two books in the trilogy, there are references back, and characters that are common to all three books, so reading all of them makes the story stronger, more cohesive and brings a clarity to the underlying meanings. Overall these three books, read together produce a rich and varied story made all the stronger by the author’s brilliant writing. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Jul 6, 2017 |
Tragic and enthralling conclusion to the trilogy. ( )
  kale.dyer | Feb 18, 2017 |
Devastating. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
In this last book of Pat Barker's much acclaimed REGENERATION trilogy, she gives us a more complete history of central character Dr William Rivers with flashbacks to his time as a medical researcher in Melanesia, working with a remote tribe of head hunters, blending this backstory seamlessly into his current job treating shell shocked soldiers back from the French front in 1918. The home front propaganda battle against pacifism and homosexuality continues to be important elements in THE GHOST ROAD. Billy Prior and Wilfred Owen are semi-central to this part of the story, while Sassoon is only peripherally present. All of these characters are 'in hiding' regarding their sexuality - and there are subtle implications that Dr Rivers himself may also be homosexual. Prior in particular is once again shown to be torn about his sexual identity, holding tender feelings about Sarah, his fiancee, while still indulging in some rather brutal and unfeeling homosexual encounters.

The shell-shock, or PTSD, part of the story remains important too, as evidenced in Prior's journal entries about how unreal it feels to come back home after experiencing the brutality of battle, likening it to Rip Van Winkle waking up after years, or the children who followed the Pied Piper -

"Children do go into the mountain and not come back. We've all been home on leave and found home so foreign that we couldn't fit in. What about after the war? But perhaps it's better not to think about that. Tempting fate."

Another line near the end of the book hit home for me. It comes shortly after Prior is compelled to kill a young dog in cold blood because of the noise it's making just before a major advance.

"Then they were moving forward, hundreds of men, eerily quiet, starlit shadows barely darkening the grass. And no dogs barked."

That last sentence chillingly echoes the title of Canadian Farley Mowat's WWII memoir, AND NO BIRDS SANG.

Chilling. Perhaps that best describes Pat Barker's trilogy of the far-reaching and long-lasting effects of the awful nightmare of trench warfare in WWI. Of the three books, I still think the first, REGENERATION, is the best. But I will strongly recommend the entire trilogy.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the Cold War memoir, SOLDIER BOY: AT PLAY IN THE ASA ( )
  TimBazzett | Jan 7, 2017 |
The third book of the trilogy seems as if it could stand on it's own. I can understand why this book, above the first two, won the Booker Prize. Going back and forth between Billy Prior's narrative in France and Rivers' memories as an anthropologist in the Torres Straits, Barker brings her point on war home. There is little difference between the head-hunting cultures in the Torres Straits and the barbaric war fought in Europe. The hypocrisy of England's disgust of the native "savageness" while sending a generation of men to die shines through the narrative.

The first book was still my favorite, mainly because it dealt with the psychological trauma in the setting of a "looney-bin," as Prior calls it. The intimate setting allowed us to see how much damage can really be done even if one survives the battlefield. The third book was a great ending to the trilogy, though the romantic in me wishes for a different ending. ( )
  Sareene | Oct 22, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Pat Barker has incorporated many of the actual words of the war's most eloquent narrators in her complex and ambitious work . . . too striking as hybrids of fact and possibility, easy humor and passionate social argument to be classified as anything but the masterwork to date of a singular and ever-evolving novelist who has consistently made up her own rules.

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barker, Patprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dijk, Edith vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Now all roads lead to France
And heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead
Returning lightly dance

~ 'Roads', Edward Thomas
For David
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In the deck-chairs all along the front the bald pink knees of Bradford businessmen nuzzled the sun.
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This book challenges our assumptions about relationships between the classes, doctors and patients, men and women, and men and men. It completes the author's exploration of the First World War, and is a timeless depiction of humanity in extremis Originally published: London: Viking, 1995.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014103095X, 0141399376

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