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Life Class by Pat Barker
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Life Class (original 2007; edition 2009)

by Pat Barker

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7334012,758 (3.47)97
Member:ken1952
Title:Life Class
Authors:Pat Barker
Info:Anchor (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
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Life Class by Pat Barker (2007)

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English (37)  Dutch (2)  Danish (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
This was my first Pat Barker novel. I liked it well enough to read more of her works, but not quite well enough to plan on reading Toby's Room, the sequel to this book. The first half of the book is more or less a romance/character study, following the lives and artistic endeavors and romantic concerns of Elinor and Paul, a pair of art students in pre-World War I London. It is well done, with the characters interesting, realistic and of some rewarding depth. The story really picks up in the second half, though, when Paul is off to the front as a volunteer hospital worker/ambulance driver in Belgium (his poor health having kept him out of the English Army). The descriptions of conditions there, and life under artillery bombardment, are harrowing. But Barker's real concern is the effect the war has on human relationships, and the importance of art, and the passion for it, in troubled times.

Barker is an excellent storyteller, with a keen eye for character and a deft hand at avoiding the obvious plot development just when one seems to be looming in the foreground. ( )
  rocketjk | Sep 24, 2014 |
Although a BIG fan of Barker's Regeneration trilogy, which situated her as a master among WWI themed novelists, I found Life Class only moderately interesting. I have a feeling that Barker could have written this novel with one hand tied behind her back. In other words, she is definitely not stretching here nor exploring new territory. And for a novel that is all about the characters (in fact, I would have liked to read a bit more about the goings on in the London artistic milieu of the era), I didn't care about them much. WWI trench warfare in Belgium was gruesome and medical facilities primitive. I KNOW that already. Ambiguous gender relationships were common among the artists, writers, etc.of the era. I KNOW that already. And it is Barker herself who contributed to my sense of those times. So. Don't show me quite the same thing in the same way all over again. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
In Life Class, Pat Barker explores the nexus between art and war. The first half of the book concerns three young people studying in a prestigious art school in London. These students are suffering from the anxieties typical of youth. Class barriers, the pressures of the school's demands, their professional futures, and ever at the forefront, their sexual desires? They spend their time going from class to cafe to night club ignoring the war clouds on the horizon. When it becomes impossible to ignore, it presents a way to question the purpose of art given such death and destruction. Each character finds a different way to answer the question.

The second half of the book takes us into the hell of war in the front line hospitals and the trenches of World War I. Each young friend must find their own way through this dreadful time. Along the way they will find themselves leaving their former selves behind. The core of this book is how people are changed by what they see, how they behave, and how their relationships will survive, or not. Good book. ( )
  m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |
I haven't read much fiction set during WWI and I thought the juxtaposition of the war front and the art school was very interesting and promising. The setting did come alive: the isolation of the art world and the horror of the battlefield hosptial are both well drawn. Unfortunately, the characters did not seem to come alive. They were interesting but I never felt a sense of compassion or even liking for them. And the ending, perhaps, reflects that is how they felt about each other. ( )
1 vote maryreinert | Aug 17, 2013 |
This book was so unexpected! Set during WWI, our main characters first meet attending an art school in London before the war begins. During the war we see how each character reacts both personally and through their art to the horrors of the war and the social demands for both males and females- males the incredible pressure to join up and ladies the pressure to become nurses or at the very least organize bandage rolling groups, or some other form of activism. Ultimately, we follow the love triangle lived out between three of the art students. The author's tendency to imply circumstances, to leave things unsaid and the abrupt ending to the novel all reminded me of Hemingway's style. I enjoyed the slow unfolding of this story and the intensity the characters felt in trying to define themselves and their art.
  amielisa | Jul 8, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
This is a lusty tale, and Barker is careful not to let historical research derail momentum. The narrative buoyancy is also due to Barker’s sense of sight, fitting for a story about the painter’s gaze: light is “lemony”; eyes are “the colour of infected phlegm”; sunbathing men are “starfish shapes.”
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barker, Patprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bekker, Jos denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Book description
It is the spring of 1914 and a group of students at the Slade School of Art have gathered for a life-drawing class. Paul Tarrant is intrigued by fellow student Elinor Brooke. But when it becomes clear that painter Kit Neville is also attracted to her, Paul withdraws into a reckless affair with an artist's model. Then, as war commences, Paul and Elinor each reach a crisis in their relationships, and they turn to each other. Working for the Belgian Red Cross, Paul tends to the mutilated, dying soldiers from the front line. But when he returns, Paul faces the overwhelming challenge of how to express all that he has experienced, and the fact that life and love will never be the same again.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385524358, Hardcover)

From the Booker Prize–winning author of The Regeneration Trilogy, an acknowledged masterpiece of modern fiction, Life Class is an exceptional new novel of artists and lovers caught in the maelstrom of the Great War.

It is the spring of 1914 and a group of young students have gathered in an art studio for a life-drawing class. Paul Tarrant and Elinor Brooke are two parts of an intriguing love triangle and, in the first days of war, they turn to each other. As spring turns to summer, Paul volunteers for the Belgian Red Cross and tends to wounded, dying soldiers from the front line. By the time he returns, Paul must confront the fact that life and love will never be the same for him again.

In Life Class, Pat Barker returns to her most renowned subject: the human devastation and psychic damage wrought by World War One on all levels of British society. Her skill in relaying the harrowing experience of modern warfare is matched by the depth of insight she brings to the experience of love and the morality of art in a time of war. Life Class is one of her genuine masterpieces.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:51 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"It is the spring of 1914 and a group of young students have gathered in an art studio for a life-drawing class. Paul Tarrant and Elinor Brooke are two parts of an intriguing love triangle, and in the first days of war, they turn to each other. As spring turns to summer, Paul volunteers for the Belgian Red Cross and tends to wounded and dying soldiers from the front line. By the time he returns, Paul must confront the fact that life and love will never be the same for him again." "In Life Class, Pat Barker returns to her most renowned subject: the human devastation and psychic damage wrought by the First World War on all levels of British society."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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