In the first book of Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy, the reader is introduced into the psychological consequences of trench fighting during World War. Officers suffering from variations of the controversial shell shock syndrome were commissioned by the British Army to be treated at Craiglockhart, a military hospital outside Edinburgh, with the intention of healing them and sending them back to the front in France. REGENERATION follows a group of officers treated at Craiglockhart as they deal with the horrific events they have witnessed. There is no doubt that what these soldiers experience can disturb even the most strong-minded individual today. The principle psychiatrist is Dr. Rivers, who suffered from his own personal demons and war symptoms. He created strong friendships with many of his patients and cared dearly for their well being. Rivers is a complex, nuanced character. While he portrays an exterior of believing in the War, he holds an internal debate of the War's philosophical warrants.
It was a pure enjoyment to read about WW1, an often forgotten war in the literary world in my own opinion. I was previously unaware to the full extent of the shock and revulsion of trench fighting that the soldiers had to endure. It seems virtually impossible to leave that situation psychologically untouched. REGENERATION contains many horrific scenes that remain with the reader long after the book is put down. Another intriguing aspect of this book concerns the fact that it is a mixture of fact and fiction. Characters such as Siegfried Sassoon and Dr. Rivers existed in real life, although Barker did perform some literary liberties in writing this book. REGENERATION is a book that was difficult to put down. The unique plot grabbed me and held my attention. Although there were many scenes of graphic violence I felt it was an integral part of the plot. It enabled the reader to get a glimpse of what these soldiers endured in the trenches. A well done accomplishment.