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Toby's Room by Pat Barker
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Toby's Room (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Pat Barker

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2821439,987 (4)36
Member:sblock
Title:Toby's Room
Authors:Pat Barker
Info:Doubleday (2012), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Untitled collection
Rating:*****
Tags:2012, WWI, fiction

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Toby's Room by Pat Barker (2012)

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» See also 36 mentions

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This is a sequel of sorts to Life Class, which I have read, but don't really remember anything about. This is about Elinor and her brother Toby, pre-war in 1912 and in 1917 when the family has received a letter saying he is missing and presumed dead. Something about it bother Elinor and she wants to find out more, leading her back fo pre-war friends from Slade. ( )
  mari_reads | Nov 2, 2014 |
A very well written, relatively involving book telling the stories of several people all caught up in em selves, the Great War & it's consequences. As characters, I found none of them strangely that empathic, & I found it difficult to get involved with them although the pacing of the story made it easy to read. Some aspects of the novel I found almost unpalatable & it's was not just in the sense of the War either. It was more the feelings & events prior to it that I found hard to understand or seem plausible. A good read, intriguing at times, very evocative about the primitive conditions associated with plastic surgery of that time & easy to read too. I don't think I'd recommend this, unless you have a specific interest or have read Life Class & want to find out what happened next. I haven't read Life Class & this hasn't made me want to go out & get it. ( )
  aadyer | May 7, 2014 |
Pat Barker illuminates the destruction of a family when Toby, a favourite son, is missing and believed killed in action during WWI. His parents already fragile marriage disintegrate following his death. Details of his death are not disclosed and his sister, Elinor, is desperate to find answers. Her obsession with her brother and her deep grief following his death is captured in all her paintings as she turns into a recluse in the family mansion. Her attempts at uncovering details of his death are futile and she senses there is more to his death than his officers are willing to disclose. In desperation, she turns to an old lover for help. Will his dark secrets follow him to his unmarked grave or will she get the answers that will allow her closure?

Written with great sensitivity, this was a difficult book to put down. ( )
  cameling | Feb 4, 2014 |
This is Pat Barker's latest depiction of the lives of mainly upper-class English people before, during and after the First World War. The central characters are a sister and a brother, both with secrets to hide about and from each other. He is a doctor who serves in the war; she is a painter who is determined to ignore the war, although all of the young men she knows fight and return profoundly changed, many of them permanently injured.
  Lynnkc | Dec 7, 2013 |
As a fan of Barker's brilliant Regeneration series, I had high hopes for Toby's Room, but I confess to being somewhat underwhelmed. Art student Elinor Brooke, familiar to readers of Life Class, returns at the heart of the story. World War I is peering over the horizon but has not yet crossed the English shores, and Elinor's greatest concerns are her art classes at the Slade, her parents' dissolving marriage, and her close relationship with her older brother Toby. But something disturbing happens, causing a rupture that brother and sister can never quite repair. Still, Elinor persists with her classes and Toby finished his medical degree. And then the war takes over.

Fast forward a few years. Toby has signed up as a medic and is serving in France, and Elinor is getting a bit bored with the Slade, uncertain of what she will do when her studies are completed. News comes that Toby has gone missing in action and is presumed dead. Shortly after, a package with his belongings arrives, and Elinor finds a brief note among them, addressed to her. In it, Toby mysteriously reveals that he won't be coming back. Convinced that he must still be alive, Elinor sets out to solve the mystery. She enlists the help of Paul Tarrant, a fellow Slade student and former lover who has just returned from the war with a severe leg injury, and the two of them focus on another former student, Kit Neville, who served with Toby as a stretcher bearer. Kit is among the patients of Dr. Harold Gillies (a factual person, the 'father' of modern plastic surgery) at Queen Mary Hospital, all of whom have suffered traumatic facial injuries.

Fortunately for Elinor, she is offered a job by Henry Tonks (another real person), her former professor, drawing the faces of the injured. The purpose of the drawings is educational: to assist Dr. Gillies in facial reconstruction and to create an archive of his efforts for other surgeons. In this capacity, she is able to visit Kit, but he is either unable or unwilling to tell her anything about Toby's apparent demise. Paul strikes up an uneasy friendship with Kit, partly out of sympathy for a fellow artist and wounded warrior, but partly in hopes of aiding Elinor.

The truth is finally revealed in the last pages of the book. Don't worry--no spoilers here. But I am rather puzzled at just how Toby got from Point A to Point C. Barker seems to imply a cause-and-effect between two events that just doesn't make sense to me. Putting that aside, however, there are many things to commend in Toby's Room. The characters are well drawn and, as always, Barker gives us a portrait of war and its effects on human lives that is both brutal and poignant. While I can't recommend this novel as highly as Regeneration, it is certainly worth reading, especially for Barker fans or for those interested in the impact of the war on those at home and the extraordinary efforts to mend the wounded. ( )
2 vote Cariola | Oct 7, 2013 |
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Elinor arrived home at four o'clock on Friday and went straight to her room. She hung the red dress on the wardrobe door, glancing at it from time to time as she brushed her hair. The neckline seemed to be getting lower by the minute. In the end her nerve failed her.
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A portrait of an upper-class family torn by World War I centers on an anguished sister whose beloved brother goes missing in action, in an epic tale that explores the experiences of the family members and the working-class people who support them.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0241145228, 0141042206

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