Toby's Room: Book summary and reviews of Toby's Room by Pat Barker

Toby's Room

by Pat Barker

Toby's Room by Pat Barker X
Toby's Room by Pat Barker
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2012
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

From Booker Prize winner Pat Barker, a masterful novel that portrays the staggering human cost of the Great War. Admirers of her Regeneration Trilogy as well as fans of Downton Abbey and War Horse will be enthralled.

With Toby's Room, a sequel to her widely praised previous novel Life Class, the incomparable Pat Barker confirms her place in the pantheon of Britain's finest novelists. This indelible portrait of a family torn apart by war focuses on Toby Brooke, a medical student, and his younger sister Elinor. Enmeshed in a web of complicated family relationships, Elinor and Toby are close: some might say too close. But when World War I begins, Toby is posted to the front as a medical officer while Elinor stays in London to continue her fine art studies at the Slade, under the tutelage of Professor Henry Tonks. There, in a startling development based in actual fact, Elinor finds that her drafting skills are deployed to aid in the literal reconstruction of those maimed in combat.

One day in 1917, Elinor has a sudden premonition that Toby will not return from France. Three weeks later the family receives a telegram informing them that Toby is "Missing, Believed Killed" in Ypres. However, there is no body, and Elinor refuses to accept the official explanation. Then she finds a letter hidden in the lining of Toby's uniform; Toby knew he wasn't coming back, and he implies that fellow soldier Kit Neville will know why.

Toby's Room is an eloquent literary narrative of hardship and resilience, love and betrayal, and anguish and redemption. In unflinching yet elegant prose, Pat Barker captures the enormity of the war's impact - not only on soldiers at the front but on the loved ones they leave behind.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Once again Barker skilfully moves between past and present (1912 and 1917), seamlessly weaving fact and fiction into a gripping narrative. If her characters are less sympathetic than might be expected, this is no doubt deliberate. Elinor, Paul and Kit are traumatised people. Even when the guns fall silent, these survivors are destined to fight their own battles for a long time." - Daily Telegraph (UK)

"For Barker, the wounded faces of the soldier-victims are realities, and also emblems of what must never be forgotten or evaded about war, and must continue – in her plain, steady, compelling voice – to be turned into art." - The Guardian (UK)

"The novel's flaws are few. Fine wordsmiths such as Barker need not revert to empty clichés such as 'for all the world', and especially not twice. Elinor's exhortation 'Oh Toby, why did you have to die?' is superfluous. But this is insignificant nit-picking. Barker has shown again that she is not only a fine chronicler of war but of human nature." - The Independent (UK)

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Author Information

Pat Barker Author Biography

Par Barker is the author of Union Street, Blow Your House Down, The Century's Daughter, The Man Who Wasn't There, the Regeneration trilogy (Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road), Another World, Border Crossing, Double Vision, and the Life Class trilogy (Life Class, Toby's Room, and Noonday). She lives in Durham, England.

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