Regeneration by Pat Barker

bookshelves: film-only, wwi, published-1991, mental-health, tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Brazilliant Laura
Read from November 20, 2011 to January 30, 2014

Description: Regeneration, one in Pat Barker’s series of novels confronting the psychological effects of World War I, focuses on treatment methods during the war and the story of a decorated English officer sent to a military hospital after publicly declaring he will no longer fight. Yet the novel is much more. Written in sparse prose that is shockingly clear — the descriptions of electronic treatments are particularly harrowing — it combines real-life characters and events with fictional ones in a work that examines the insanity of war like no other. Barker also weaves in issues of class and politics in this compactly powerful book.

Staff and patients outside Craiglockhart hospital in March 1917

Did you see this recent news item

Dougray Scott … Capt. Robert Graves
Stuart Bunce … 2nd Lt. Wilfred Owen
James Wilby … 2nd Lt. Siegfried Sassoon
Jonathan Pryce … Capt. William Rivers

Suicide In The Trenches

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

© Siegfried Sassoon

ARMISTICE DAY, 1918 by ROBERT GRAVES

What’s all this hubbub and yelling, Commotion and scamper of feet, With ear-splitting clatter of kettles and cans, Wild laughter down Mafeking Street?

O, those are the kids whom we fought for (You might think they’d been scoffing our rum) With flags that they waved when we marched off to war In the rapture of bugle and drum.

Now they’ll hang Kaiser Bill from a lamp-post, Von Tirpitz they’ll hang from a tree…. We’ve been promised a ‘Land Fit for Heroes’— What heroes we heroes must be!

And the guns that we took from the Fritzes,
That we paid for with rivers of blood,
Look, they’re hauling them down to Old Battersea Bridge
Where they’ll topple them, souse, in the mud!

But there’s old men and women in corners
With tears falling fast on their cheeks,
There’s the armless and legless and sightless
— It’s seldom that one of them speaks.

And there’s flappers gone drunk and indecent
Their skirts kilted up to the thigh,
The constables lifting no hand in reproof
And the chaplain averting his eye….

When the days of rejoicing are over,
When the flags are stowed safely away,
They will dream of another wild ‘War to End Wars’
And another wild Armistice day.

But the boys who were killed in the trenches,
Who fought with no rage and no rant,
We left them stretched out on their pallets of mud
Low down with the worm and the ant.

Robert Graves

ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH by WILFRED OWEN

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
—Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
— The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Extremely powerful anti-war message in this biography of mental care at Craiglockhart Hospital, Edinburgh, where some scenes were just too much to bear.

Crossposted:
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