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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Regeneration (1991) by Pat Barker



Book Review
Regeneration (1991)
 by Pat Barker

  Pat Barker- female- fyi- English- won the Booker Prize, not for Regeneration, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize, but for a later book in her trilogy about World War I.  Regeneration was the first book in the Regeneration Trilogy.  Barker blends fact and fiction to tell the story of the treatment of English soldiers suffering from "shell shock" or post-traumatic stress disorder at two different hospitals.   Most of Regeneration takes place at Craiglockheart War Hospital, where Siegfred Sassoon- a real life war hero, poet and what we would call "contentiousness objector" has been confined after a public declaration against the war.  He is being treated by Doctor W. H. R. Rivers.

   Sassoon is a tricky case for Rivers- Rivers knows that Sassoon isn't "insane,"  but he can't be labeled sane without being considered a traitor and a coward.  It's a sticky wicket, and most of Regeneration involves resolving Sassoon's situation.  Then, in the last portion, Rivers moves to a different hospital, where he is exposed to the shock intensive methods of Dr. Yealland.

    It's easy to forget just how far we have come with the treatment of veterans with mental health disorders, and how far we have to go. Living in Southern California, and working in the world of criminal justice, I see how seriously the government takes the mental health of veterans.  It is no joke, seeing the impact of combat on soldiers, and this is the beginning of that story.

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