Toby's Room

by Pat Barker

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Toby's Room Synopsis

Toby's Room is the second novel in Pat Barker's Life Class Trilogy, returning to the First World War in a dark, compelling examination of human desire, wartime horror and the power of friendship. When Toby is reported 'Missing, Believed Killed', another secret casts a lengthening shadow over Elinor's world: how exactly did Toby die - and why? Elinor determines to uncover the truth. Only then can she finally close the door to Toby's room. Heart-rendering return to the Great War...On every level, Toby's Room anatomises a world where extreme emotion shatters the boundaries of identity, behaviour, gender. Through the mask of Apollo bursts an omnipresent Dionysus. (Independent). Once again Barker skilfully moves between past and present, seamlessly weaving fact and fiction into a gripping narrative. (Sunday Telegraph). A gripping and moving exploration of the lasting effects of war. (Woman & Home). A natural storyteller...the reader [will be] torn between wanting to linger over the sheer pleasure of the writing and the desire to rush towards the end to discover how it all pans out. (Daily Mail).

Toby's Room Press Reviews

Praise for Toby's Room

Barker...has pursued [World War I] through a remarkable series of novels: the much-admired Regeneration trilogy... Life Class and now Toby's Room. ... [T]hese novels go far beyond a demonstration of the powers of the historical imagination.Like most good works of fiction, they re not so much about the events they depict as about the resonance of those events, the way certain actions ripple through people s lives.... Toby's Room takes large risks. It s dark, painful and indelibly grotesque, yet it is also tender. It strains its own narrative control to create in the midst of an ordinary life a kind of deformed reality precisely to illustrate how everything we call ordinary is disfigured by war. And it succeeds brilliantly. John Vernon, New York Times Book Review

[T]he writing is lucid and often beautiful. Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly

A tantalizing and moving return to wartime London. Joanna Scutts, Washington Post

You get a glimpse inside Toby s room in Pat Barker s poignant novel of the same name, but what you remember are three real and very different English landmarks the Slade, London s prestigious art academy; Cafe Royal, frequented by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill and Virginia Woolf; and the Queen s Hospital, opened in 1917 to serve injured British soldiers in need of facial reconstruction.... No one evokes England in all its stiff-upper-lip gritty wartime privation like Barker. She is as uncompromising as Henry Tonks, as determined to render an honest portrayal of war. She will not allow us to sweep it out of sight.... [She] sets the bar high. Ellen Kanner, Miami Herald

Haunting and complicated sibling love is at the heart of Pat Barker's Great War novel.... [T]he precision of Ms. Barker's writing shows her again to be one of the finest chroniclers of both the physical and psychological disfigurements exacted by the First World War.

Wall Street Journal

Barker deftly fused fact and fiction in her hugely impressive Regeneration Trilogy by turning the war poetsSiegfried SassoonandWilfred Oweninto integral characters. She continues this blending in Toby's Room. ... [It]is in many ways Barker's most ambitious novel to date....As ever, the war scenes, and the accounts of the broken men who inhabit them, are, by turn, gripping and unsettling. However, in with the carnage and the trauma are those expert passages on art as something both reflective and redemptive. This is a powerful book that chronicles in various ingenious ways, and from certain unique perspectives, 'the poignancy of a young life cutshort.
Malcolm Forbes, San Francisco Chronicle

A Pat Barker novel is a novel that deals in some way with the horrors of World War One, and it s a also a novel about art, but mostly it s a novel about how art attempts to depict the horrors of World War One. And this is how a Pat Barker novel attempts to depict the horrors of World War One: bluntly

. Brock Clark, Boston Globe

[A]lthough Toby s Room is not billed as a prequel or sequel to Life Class and the reader need not be familiar with that novel in order to get to grips with this... [t]hose who do know Barker s previous work will be struck by recurrences and continuations in this novel not only of events in Life Class, but in Regeneration, too....[Barker's] prose remains fresh, humanely business-like, crisp and unsentimental. Images are scrupulously vivid, and the plot has real momentum. Freya Johnston, Telegraph (London) A driving storyline and a clear eye, steadily facing the history of our world.... 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. Hermione Lee, Guardian (London) Praise for Life Class Beautiful and evocative . . . A coming-of-age story that transcends the individual and gestures to the fate of a generation.


Life Class possesses organic power and narrative sweep . . . Barker conjures up the hellish terrors of war and its fallout with meticulous precision. Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Here, as in her best fiction, Barker unveils psychologically rich characters . . . and resists the trappings of a neat love story, reminding us once again that in art and life we remain infinitely mysterious.

San Francisco Chronicle Praise for the Regeneration Trilogy A masterwork . . . complex and ambitious.


New York Times Book Review

It has been Pat Barker s accomplishment to enlarge the scope of the contemporary English novel.

The New Yorker

A literary achievement . . . remarkable.

San Francisco Chronicle Some of the most powerful antiwar writing in modern fiction.

The Boston Globe

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780141042206
Publication date: 07/02/2013
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780241144572
Publication date: 16/08/2012
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780141042206
Publication date: 7th February 2013
Author: Pat Barker
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 272 pages
Genres: eBook Favourites, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),

About Pat Barker

Pat Barker was born in 1943. Her books include the highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy, comprising Regeneration (1991); which was made into a film of the same name; The Eye in the Door (1993), which won the Guardian Fiction Prize; and The Ghost Road (1995), which won the Booker Prize, as well as the more recent novels Another World, Border Crossing, Double Vision, Life Class and Toby’s Room. She lives in Durham.

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