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Double Vision (2003)

by Pat Barker

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4891650,652 (3.55)17
Profoundly affected by the events of September 11th and its aftermath, two British journalists return to England to face different fates, in a study of the effects of violence on those who come in contact with it.

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
A library sale find, Pat Baker's DOUBLE VISION (2003) was new to me. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed her REGENERATION trilogy, as well as LIFE CLASS and a couple more of her novels. Her characters are always real and compelling, and the ones here are no different. Kate, a sought-after sculptor, is recently widowed, her husband (a war photographer) killed by a sniper in Afghanistan. She is also temporarily disabled from an auto accident, and is working on a larger-than-life Christ, so is forced to hire a studio assistant, Peter, recommended by the local vicar. Turns out Peter has a rather questionable past, did some prison time. The vicar, who tries to help prison parolees, had taken him in. Peter even apparently had a brief, torrid affair with the vicar's daughter Justine, who is also an important character. Just nineteen, she takes up with Stephen Sharkey, a forty-something war correspondent who has come back to live in the country guest house of his doctor brother, Robert, where Justine is employed as an au pair for Robert and Beth's precocious ten year-old son, Adam, who has Asperger's syndrome. Stephen, suffering from PTSD, is taking a break from his dangerous profession to write a book about war. Oh, and he was best friends with Kate's late husband, Ben, and was there when Ben was killed.

So, whereas I fully expected Stephen and Kate to end up together, that didn't happen. Oh, and Justine is brutally assaulted by two burglars who break into Robert's home, but is rescued just in time by Stephen.

So here's the thing, plot-wise DOUBLE VISION is all over the place, messy, surprising and unpredictable. But then life can be that way, right? And all of the characters here are just so damn good! The ending was, well, there wasn't much of any actual ending. Did everyone - or ANYone - "live happily ever after?" Hard to say. Nevertheless I'm glad I found this book (only fifty cents), and very glad I read it. Pat Barker is simply a wonderful writer. Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Aug 10, 2022 |
[warning: potential spoilers] I am conflicted about this novel. It develops a lot of psychological tension which almost seems to demand some sort of incident . . . which doesn't really come. The story does see some resolution but in a rather arbitrary, quotidian way. And many of the strands don't really resolve at all. But I think there's a contrast being built between a world of trauma--growing up essentially parentless, war reporting, prison--where stories regularly include those symbolic, violent climaxes we've come to expect in literature, and a world of relative normality where it's more like one thing after another, where one happening is not a resolution to past happenings, where stuff happens and people try to cope.

Imperfectly done, I think. It could use to have been somewhat longer, but bringing this novel to a successful, satisfying end would have been very difficult in any case. ( )
  ehines | Oct 13, 2019 |
This is different from a lot of the war fiction by Pat Barker in that it deals with the aftermath of war rather than life during war. ‘Double Vision’ is set in Barker’s NE England, with both countryside and city drawn clearly.
War reporter Stephen Sharkey returns to the NE to stay in his brother’s isolated holiday cottage, he has resigned his job and plans to write a book. It seems idyllic, peaceful, but his dreams are full of war memories, particularly the body of a girl discovered in a Sarajevo ruin, raped and murdered. Kate Frobisher, widow of Sharkey’s war photographer colleague Ben, is a sculptor. She is struggling too, with being alone, and with injuries sustained in a car accident. Kate’s progress with the sculpture of a man, with the deadline looming, forms the spine of this novel.
This is not a love story in that there is no romance but it is a story about the love of family, of community, of responsibility. And it is also about the opposite of love: hate, as done to the girl in that Sarajevo ruin. The horrors that man does to man, in wartime and ordinary time, and whether forgiveness and love can redeem those horrors.
Barker populates her story with a tightly-drawn circle of characters, puts them into relationships, then mixes things up. Kate cannot physically cope with the work required to sculpt and so hires a man to do the heavy lifting, a man recommended by the local vicar Alec. Justine, the sister of the local vicar, is a part-time nanny for Sharkey’s nephew, she and Sharkey become lovers. Then there is Stephen’s brother Robert and his wife Beth, on the outside their life in a beautiful country house seems beautiful. But is it? And who is Peter, the gardener/labourer who becomes Kate’s assistant, who seems to lurk quietly in the background.
There is a tension underlying this story but it is not a thriller, there is not a murderer lurking in the shadows, but Barker makes you want to read on, to find out what happens to these people. I love Pat Barker’s writing, she has a minimal style which reminds me of Hemingway. She seems incapable of writing an unnecessary word. Here’s one small example: ‘His sleep was threadbare, like cheap curtains letting in too much light.’ I know just what she means.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Feb 6, 2017 |
good read — too many unfinished stories at the end
Writer — War — Photo killed, his sculptress wife — Peter — thief?

A gripping novel about the effects of violence on the journalists and artists who have dedicated themselves to representing it
In the aftermath of September 11, reeling from the effects of reporting from New York City, two British journalists, a writer, Stephen Sharkey, and a photographer, Ben Frobisher, part ways. Stephen, facing the almost simultaneous discovery that his wife is having an affair, returns to England shattered; he divorces and quits his job. Ben returns to his vocation. He follows the war on terror to Afghanistan and is killed.
  christinejoseph | Dec 23, 2016 |
It's not often that I agree with anything in the Telegraph, but the line on the cover "unputdownable and thought-provoking" describes my feelings on this book fairly precisely. A much more modern setting than many of her books, but issues of grief and guilt are again at the core of this book. Her writing is eloquent but never over wordy and she makes you savour many of her sentences. Highly recommended. ( )
  johnwbeha | Nov 18, 2015 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barker, Patprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
den Bekker, JosTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fortier-Masek, Marie-OdileTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Glenister, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuči, Ivana ŠojatTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Møller-Madsen, LisbethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rabendorf, OleNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Šikić, TomislavNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Profoundly affected by the events of September 11th and its aftermath, two British journalists return to England to face different fates, in a study of the effects of violence on those who come in contact with it.

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