Book review model of Regeneration by Pat Barker
What I liked
I like the fact that it explored a different aspect of the First World War to other books that I have read, and what happened to some of the soldiers who suffered from shell shock. Although the book mentions, quite vividly, the reasons why the soldiers were in the hospital, shocking stories of terrible things that had happened to them, it didn’t dwell on the fighting. I also liked the fact that real people and fiction were interwoven and Pat Barker obviously did a lot of research to write the book. The exploration of Siegfried Sassoon’s protest about the war and how they ‘dealt’ with him was very interesting.
What I did not like
There wasn’t anything in particular that I didn’t like about the actual book but didn’t like some of the attitudes of the army hierarchy towards the soldiers in the hospital and their “return to the front”. But that was how it was at the time, a time with very different attitudes to ours today. It must have been difficult to decide who is genuinely suffering but I also empathise with those who just wanted to escape the horrors of the war.
What surprised me
Near the end of the book William Rivers, the psychiatrist, visits another hospital and witnesses the medical treatment given to a mute patient. In comparison to Rivers’ treatment of his patients it seemed barbaric, virtually torture. I was surprised that this sort of treatment occurred, but it was interesting to see the different approaches of the two doctors.
What I learned
The different ways post-traumatic stress disorder manifests itself in the people suffering from it. Although I was aware of shell shock and some of the effects on the people with it, the book really brought home to me just how terrible and devastating it can be and how difficult it was to treat the soldiers with it. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to confirm a soldier’s recovery knowing they would be sent back to the front. All too often we think about the men who were killed but not so much about the terrible and often long lasting effects the war had on those who fought.
What I wished would have happened
For something nice to happen in the life of the main character William Rivers. He was so busy with his patients he didn’t seem to have much time for a life of his own and consequently had health issues of his own.