The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker


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.

13 thoughts on “The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker

  1. Great review and such a great series!

    I read the first book for a British Novel class at the same time I was taking a WWI class, and it’s still one of the most haunting books I’ve ever read.

    I thought it did a wonderful job of conveying the horror of the trenches without even being set there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, she’s a fantastic writer. Have you read her more recent Life Class trilogy? They’re also fantastic.

      A British Novel class sounds fantastic, although it probably wouldn’t get much traction over here, since everyone reads English writers! Any other standouts from your class you can recommend?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t read this trilogy, but I want to now! I just checked our library’s catalog, and we don’t have them. I’m going to pester my boss with purchase requests for them! Thanks for the recommendation!

        From that class, I remember also particularly enjoying Trollope’s The Warden, Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret. We read a couple of other books, but they didn’t stand out to me as much.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The only one of those I’ve read is The Remains of the Day, and everyone I know who’s read that or seen the film fell completely in love with it 😀

        Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll check out the others!


      • Remains of the Day is such a lovely book. I’ve recommended it to a couple of people, and so far, it’s always been a hit.

        Trollope’s The Warden was quite good, but I just got finished with his second book in the series, Barchester Towers, and it’s just as entertaining!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m trying to read one Great War novel per full year of the centenary. I started with All Quiet on the Western Front last year (brilliant), read Parade’s End this year (less brilliant but still good) and have Pat Barker’s trilogy lined up for next year. I’ve already read Birdsong (I may well be the only person on the planet to dislike it) and am looking for a title for 2018 (counting it as a full year because Armistice was in November). Any suggestions?

    Liked by 1 person

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