These three inter-related historical novels are set during the First World War and deal mainly with the treatment of soldiers suffering from the effect of shell shock. Several of the characters are based on historical figures such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, famous war-poets but the series centers on Billy Prior, a fictional working class officer.
The opening novel is set in Craiglockhart Hospital which served as a psychiatric facility for war casualties in reality, and another of the principal characters, W.H.R. Rivers is based on a pioneering psychiatrist and anthropologist of the same name.
In the later section “The Ghost Road” we learn of his experiences on an Anthropological expedition to the Torres straits twenty years before. Rivers comes across as empathetic towards his patients, contrasting with the attitudes and treatment of other medical staff at the time though it should be remembered that the soldiers involved were officers; I wonder how private men suffering from war trauma fared.
The writer gives us a good picture of what life and society was like in Britain and at the front during the conflict, mainly through the experiences of Prior. It’s definitely worth a read.
You can reserve copies of these books online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.