Pat Barker’s ‘Regeneration’

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Regeneration follows the efforts of a First World War psychiatric doctor to uncover the triggers of his patients’ trauma. This work induces in him a trauma which is a pale shadow of his patients’; whilst our reading of this novel induces in us a trauma which is a pale shadow of the doctor’s. Is Barker, psychiatrist-like, forcing us to confront the cause of our historical unease about that war? Or does she want those of us who have no such unease to feel it for the first time? Either way, she is using a medium – art – which has limited efficacy in the novel itself, in comparison to the most advanced version of psychiatry available in 1916.

 

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