Regeneration by Pat Barker

Regeneration (1991) is the first of the award winning trilogy of the same name. Pat Barker ( gets into the heads of the young men who were forced to endure the horrors of the First World War. It was followed by The Eye in the Door (1993) and The Ghost Road (1995). It mixes fictional characters with real figures such as Wilfred Owen and the psychiatrist William Rivers. Owen’s poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ goes as follows:

‘What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns. Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons. No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, – The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; And bugles calling for them from sad shires. What candles may be held to speed them all? Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes. The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall; Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds’.

Barker’s trilogy is equal in its qualities as an anthem, but in prose form.

‘The war to end all wars’ has been succeeded by horrific wars and conflicts right up to the present day.

The literature on The First World War is vast. You might begin with Niall Ferguson’s provocative analysis from 1998 ‘The Pity of War‘ (The Pity of War: 1914 – 1918: Ferguson, Niall: 9780140275230: Books)

Pat Barker

Brought to the screen in 1997 (, directed by Gillies McKinnon, starring Jonathan Pryce, James Wilby and Jonny Lee Miller.

Available on DVD at

256 pages Penguin paperback edition.

ISBN 978-0141030937

[Postscript at 2019 – A new film treating The First World War was released in 2019. Titled ‘1917’ it offers a visceral depiction of the horrors of the trenches. 1917 (2019) – IMDb ]

[Postscript at 2023 – Horrific wars and conflicts, including in Ukraine and Gaza, continue across the world]

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