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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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3021537,080 (3.99)41
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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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
This is the second in a series, but it is perfectly readable as a stand alone. Set in two phases, the first part, in 1912, focuses on Elinor & Toby and their family. Toby is at medical school in London. Elinor at the Slade, and starting to wonder what to do thereafter. The family appears to have everything under control but the tensions are simmering beneath the surface. Then there happens an event that has the ability to tear the family apart, should it ever come to light. But the siblings suppress the event and carry on, although there remains a tension between them that can't be put aside.
At the Slade, Elinor joins a course in dissection in order to better understand the human form and improve her drawing. In this phase we also meet Kit Neville and Paul Tarrant, both of whom are very different men and each of which has a part to play later.
Phase 2 of the novel takes place in 1917, when Toby is notified as missing, presumed killed. Paul is back in London with a wounded leg, Kit returns with severe facial injuries. Elinor is determined to know more about what happened to Toby, and this enhanced by a letter she finds addressed to her in his belongings when they are shipped back.
It deals with the feelings of those left at home, as well as those returning from the front, the battles themselves actually play only a small part in the narrative. The interplay between the two very different men is really well done. At times Elinor feels a bit hard and angular, she is struggling to work out her place in the world and the world as it has been turned on its head, both on the world scale and the personal - the reaction to grief is especially interesting. It is a hugely personal thing, with each person's grief being unique, Elinor's takes its shape through art. In the aftermath of Toby's death., the family can no longer play their roles and each of them have to renegotiate their relationships with each other, and that causes the separation between Toby & Elinor's parents to become fact, rather than disguised fiction. This is not the book I thought it would be, the event in phase 1 of the book sets up tensions that echo through the reminder of the story, but neither is it all tied up neatly at the end. The relationships remain unresolved, the future is unclear. There is one, and that's a start. It is really beautifully written, somewhat understated, yet somehow was a page turner, I had to get to the end. Really very good. ( )
  Helenliz | Aug 19, 2015 |
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 |
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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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Editions: 0241145228, 0141042206

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