Evesham & District

Regeneration - Pat Barker

Regeneration is about physically and emotionally wounded soldiers in WW1. It takes place in a hospital, and accounts of of the battlefield are as related by the patients, specific events that had a deep effect on them personally

The characters include real people and their real experiences, primarily Dr Rivers, an army psychologist, and Seigfried Sassoon, the poet who satirised military incompetence. Dr Rivers felt inner conflict about preparing fragile men to return to the horrors that tore their minds apart. Henry Head, another real doctor, had a brutal approach. He had his own radial nerve surgically disconnected at the elbow in order to study the effects of the injury and the recovery process. He was an advocate of electric shock treatment, and used it with intimidation in the belief that this would cure the symptoms of mental aberrations caused by war experiences. These symptoms are now known as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and recognised as normal reactions to abnormal events.

This book is intense, with some horrific details, but is less about the war itself than about the effects on the people who fought it, and those who had to look after them. It reminded some members of the experiences of their own family members.

Regeneration is the first book of a trilogy about the same people and how their lives developed. Some of us have started to read these. The subject matter makes them difficult, but the writing is good, and reading them is a good experience.

Members rated this book between 6 and 9 out of ten, with an average of 7.4.

Half the group would recommend it to a friend. Of the other half, one said it would depend on the friend, and the others abstained.

(January 2020)