I just finished reading this book Regeneration, the first of the Pat Barker WWI trilogy.
It was powerful and somehow very relevant today although it is written about a time so long ago.
The setting is a mental hospital for WWI British soldiers. Many are sent there to be rehabilitated before going back to the front. Some are released from duty and sent home. What was surprising to me was the dichotomy of feelings experienced by those receiving their ’sentence’. If they were sent back, they were proud to be again serving their country and being deemed “fit for duty”, however there was the fear of going back to the horrors they have already experienced. If they were sent home and released from duty, there was relief, but horrible shame and guilt.
The characters were so believeable and I felt such sympathy for some of them. I found out at the end while reading the Author’s Note that this book is based on a true story and on real people. It’s hard to think that these are real stories. What is written about within the pages actually happened to people. Wow is the word that comes to mind, but it’s insufficient.
Aside from being an essay on ethics (essentially), it chronicles some of the psychiatric treatments of the time. Completely barbaric and I found reading about them very upsetting. At the same time it’s very fascinating that doctors can be so convinced of their modes of treatment which are basically torture. Unfortunately they were successful and therefore continued. Horrifying.
I’m not sure this book is for everyone. I did find the characters a bit hard to keep straight. They are each identified by their disorder and I didn’t really see that as an acceptable way to keep them in mind. I need physical descriptions.
I’m off to read book 2!
Enjoying the journey, Amanda
February 12th, 2010
What a fabulous book!
Despite the vast popularity of The Time Traveller’s Wife, I have to say I really disliked that book. Every page of it. I found Niffenegger’s grasp on her own odd concept tenuous which made the reading shifty and unfocused. I disliked the movie even more. What a waste of time and money (referring to both book and movie).
I was totally pleased with Her Fearful Symmetry. It was much more literary than The Time Traveler’s Wife and Niffenegger was able to handle the subject (which was just as odd) much more beautifully and smoothly.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel with a ghost as such a prominent main character, but the person was just so lovely it just worked.
I was a bit disappointed in that one of the major plot twists I figured out in the first few chapters when it wasn’t revealed until much later in the book. I didn’t find that very masterful, unlike the rest of the book.
The setting was beautiful, the characters were completely believable, even the non-corporeal ones, and the plot moved along quickly, logically and was all in all a very fulfilling read.
I read this on the heels of Stephen King’s latest novel and was surprised to find Niffenegger trumping King in the creepiness category. I didn’t think that would be possible at all when I first opened Her Fearful Symmetry. But it is, in large part, a ghost story and as much as the ghosts are rather endearing for the most part, the ghost/horror story aspect sneaks in and really had me biting my nails.
I highly recommend this book. The setting is absolutely gorgeous, one Niffenegger obviously knows well and is passionate about; the characters are all rich, complex and lovable for both their redeeming qualities and their faults; and the plot was infinitely enjoyable and smooth for such a wild ride. Even at it’s most disturbing it’s most fascinating!
February 8th, 2010