Book Review - Toby's Room, by Pat Barker

 

The second book in Pat Barker’s new trilogy is set in 1917, when young artist Elinor Brooke learns her brother Toby is listed as missing, presumed dead. We follow her attempts to uncover the truth of his death, so I expected this book would reveal the true impact of the war on the lives of everyone.

 

What I didn’t expect was for Pat Barker to address one of the last ‘taboo’ subjects rarely explored by other authors – with such gripping effect. The same characters so wonderfully developed in Life Class, suffer sometimes physical and emotional trauma, made all the more shocking by our knowledge of their previous lives.

 

I particularly liked the evocative glimpses of live at the front line, seen through flashbacks. Once again, Pat Barker shows her skill with passages from Elinor’s diary which conceal as much as they reveal, leaving the reader to form their own theories.

  

Toby’s Room is also a moving tribute to the memory of those who survived the horrors of war and continued fighting, often against the odds, to recover their humanity.

 

Tony Riches