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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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3601930,197 (3.99)50
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 19 (next | show all)
Terrific book, slightly better (IMO) than the first of the trilogy. This is Pat Barker at her best: crisp, imaginative writing; fascinating characters; keen insight into people's motivations. The descriptions of both WWI battle injuries and art work are insightful. The pacing of the book is perfect - it's gripping. ( )
  meredk | May 14, 2016 |
As the second book of a trilogy, this can be read also as a standalone novel. The Toby of the title is the brother art student Elinor Brooke, whose story is told in ‘Life Class’. This story starts further back in time with a secret shared by the siblings, something not hinted at in the first book. In fact this whole book is about secrets, things hidden for shame, war too horrible to talk about, fear and emotions to be ashamed of, and things simply not spoken. Society was very different then, pragmatism coloured everyday lives, people did what they had to and tried to forget the bad things.
Toby is reported ‘Missing, Believed Killed’, a parcel of his belongings is returned. Elinor believes the true story is being hidden and enlists fellow art student Paul Tarrant - who returned from Ypres injured and is now an official war artist – to help. She believes another war artist, Kit Neville, who served with Toby, must know the truth but refuses to say. Kit suffered a horrific face injury and is being treated at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup. Visiting Kit there they find not only Kit but Henry Tonks, their intimidating professor at the Slade School of Art.
The facial reconstructions at Sidcup are well documented, not least by the medical drawings of patients by Tonks and his team. Once again, Barker uses a true story and seamlessly inserts her fictional characters. And yet again, Barker combines a study of individuals at war while considering the role of art in conflict. As official war artists, Kit and Paul struggle with the limitations they are given, the portrayal of reality is forbidden. As I read every page of this book, the image which stayed in my mind was Paul Nash’s ‘We Are Making a New World’.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Dec 29, 2015 |
Vintage Pat Barker. Pat Barker writes about damaged people so well, and this book is no exception. Well worth a read. ( )
  oparaxenos | Nov 27, 2015 |
I approach a Pat Barker book with a sense of trepidation. I know that what I read will be fiction, but I also know that it will be the truth and that that truth will be both uncomfortable and immensely sad. Perhaps that it in inevitable once the First World War becomes part of the background to the story. The more we know about that conflict, the deeper the sadness at the loss of much of a generation and the greater the anger at those who caused the war and those who were in charge of its execution.
As always Pat Barker writes relatively simply but often beautifully drawing us into the lives of characters both imagined and real. Her creations are almost never wholly sympathetic; it almost seems as if they are holding back part of themselves to stop us getting too close.
There is no doubt that she is a great writer, one who deserves to be read by all of us who like our literary entertainment leavened by deep compassion for our race.
( )
  johnwbeha | Nov 18, 2015 |
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. ( )
1 vote Helenliz | Aug 19, 2015 |
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For David, always
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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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