Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New in Paperback: Life Class by Pat Barker

It’s difficult to imagine a more perfectly soft backdrop over which to juxtapose the harsh outlines of war: an art class -- actually, a life class -- in the summer of 1914 and a group of friends in art school forever touched and altered by the onset of war: the first Great One.

Pat Barker, winner of the Booker Prize (for 1995’s magnificent The Ghost Road), here revisits some of the territory she covered in her ground-breaking WWI trilogy, Regeneration (of which The Ghost Road was the third and final novel).

When Life Class (Anchor) was published in the U.S. in hard cover last year, the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani (whose birthday we remarked upon in this space last week) said:
After several intriguing but lumpy novels set in the present or near-present, it becomes clear to the reader that World War I resonates with Ms. Barker with special force, for “Life Class” possesses the organic power and narrative sweep that her recent books with more contemporary settings lack.
While I’ve not heard many (any?) others ever describe Barker’s work as “lumpy,” Kakutani is correct here: Life Class is certainly possessed of both power and sweep. There is perhaps no one who conveys the horror of that terrible war.



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