The Ghost Road

The Ghost Road

by Pat Barker

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Overview

Set in the closing months of World War I, this towering novel combines poetic intenstiy with gritty realism as it brings Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy to its stunning conclusion.

In France, millions of men engaged in brutal trench warfare are all “ghosts in the making.” In England, psychologist William Rivers, with severe pangs of conscience, treats the mental casualties of the war to make them whole enough to fight again. One of these, Billy Prior, risen to the officer class from the working class, both courageous and sardonic, decides to return to France with his fellow officer, poet Wilfred Owen, to fight a war he no longer believes in. Meanwhile, Rivers, enfevered by influenza returns in memory to his experience studying a South Pacific tribe whose ethos amounted to a culture of death. Across the gulf between his society and theirs, Rivers begins to form connections that cast new light on his—and our—understanding of war.

Winner of the 1995 Booker Prize

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142180600
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/31/2013
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 290,752
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Pat Barker has earned a place in the first rank of contemporary British writers with such novels as Union StreetRegeneration (shortlisted for Britain's prestigious Booker Prize and chosen by the New York Times as one of the four best novels of 1992), The Eye in the Door (winner of the 1993 Guardian fiction prize), The Ghost Road (winner of the 1995 Booker Prize), and Noonday. Barker lives in Durham, England.

Hometown:

Durham, England

Date of Birth:

May 8, 1943

Place of Birth:

Thornaby-on-Tees, England

Education:

London School of Economics; Durham University

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The Ghost Road 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone living in the 21st century who cares about the future of humanity -- not to mention fine literature -- should read this extremely skillfully written, emotionally powerful novel of The Great War. Pat Barker has perfect control over her material, and manages to write with power but never goes over the top or gets melodramatic -- a tough thing to do when you're writing about any war. Starting gently, subtly, even humorously, the book builds quietly until it reaches its final, wrenching chapters. It's a touching, compelling, beautifully told tale that deserves a worldwide audience. I can't wait to read more by Pat Barker!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once I started, I couldn't put it down. What a complex and compelling story - written beautifully. One moment you are in the battlefield, one moment you are in a psychiatric ward, and the next you are among a tribe of headhunters. For the literary value alone - well worth it. I will read more of his work.
vibrantminds on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Book 3 brings to life the true cost of war with the climatic conclusion of the series. Billy Prior who was treated for shell shock by the psychiatrist Dr. Rivers is found fit for duty and sent back to the war front in France, which is where he longed to be. He is sent back just in time to participate in the "one last push" campaign to restore a sense of valor and fortitude for the senseless loss of life. Meanwhile, Dr. Rivers finds himself ill and begins contemplating a time earlier in his life when on a scientific expedition he lived with a community of headhunters in the South Seas. He begins to associate his experiences there with that of what is currently happening with the war. A very moving and thought out series that depicts some of the horrors brought on by war and those who are left to struggle with the consequence of the aftermath.
wispywillow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just now learned that this book is the third in a trilogy¿d¿oh! Why do I never find this stuff out before I start reading it?Despite that, this book was utter poetry. God¿ the mixture of beauty of language and the ugliness of war¿ and the humanity of¿ of just being human. And that some of these people¿many of them, actually¿really existed, really died¿ it serves to deepen an already poignant, mesmerizing, heart-breaking novel.The imagery is so beautiful. In a way it reminds me of the movie A Thin Red Line. It¿s been years since I¿ve seen this movie, but what I do remember is a combination of beauty with the ugliness of, in this case, the second World War.I¿m going to read the first two books of this trilogy as soon as possible.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The third book of the [Regeneration] trilogy unfortunately proved unsatisfying. I'm not sure how that happened, since I felt such a strong connection to the first two books and even felt a certain amount of sympathy to one of the main characters, officer Billy Prior and especially to psychiatrist Dr. Rivers, but here, there were parallels to be drawn between Rivers' remembrances of time spent among an island tribe of headhunters and their cult of the dead with the horrors of trench warfare during World War I that would need to be explained to me. As it is, I found this to be a disappointing ending.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Ghost Road is the third and final book in Pat Barker¿s WWI trilogy - and it is by far the best of the series. The novel takes place in the waning months of the war and continues the story of Billy Prior who has returned to the front lines in France along with Wilfrid Owen (who previously spent time with Prior at Craiglockhart recovering from a breakdown). Neither man believes in the war, but are there out of duty to fight side by side with their comrades in arms. Psychiatrist Dr. Rivers continues to play a prominent role in this novel, seemingly safe from the war at his post in a London hospital. Dr. River¿s memories of a time spent studying headhunters in the South Pacific run parallel to Billy¿s story.Barker weaves these two story lines together, deftly showing a culture of death and war amongst the South Pacific tribe linked to the mentality of modern society which supports the war in France.Barker¿s prose is harsh yet poetic - a ying and yang style which draws the reader into the lives of the characters.Billy Prior is a largely unlikeable character with his gritty, sardonic view of life - and yet he becomes a sympathetic symbol of all that is wrong with war. And as the reader turns the final pages, it is with the conviction that war is not worth it.The Ghost Road is a simply wrought, yet beautifully constructed anti-war novel which is graphic and disturbing. Barker spares her reader nothing and shows the violent nature of human beings in the depiction of loveless sex and ruthless battles. This novel - which won the 1995 Booker Prize - should be read as part of the larger trilogy to gain its full impact.Highly recommended with a caution that some readers may be offended by violence, graphic sexual scenes and realistic language.
CBJames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Ghost Road by Pat Barker is the final volume in her Regeneration trilogy. (For reviews of the first two see Regeneration and The Eye in the Door.) In this the story's conclusion we follow Billy Prior as he prepares to go back to the final days of the fighting in World War I and Dr. William Rivers as he continues to treat soldier's suffering from various forms of mental breakdown and dreams of the days he spent as an anthropologist studying a tribe of head hunters on Eddystone Island in the South Seas. In The Ghost Road Ms. Barker continues to mix historical fact with fiction to tell her story. Billy Prior is a fictional character but Dr. Rivers is a historical figure who really did spend time living with a tribe of headhunters. During his flashbacks we learn quite a lot about the lives and customs of the South Seas natives. They have been forced to abandon their headhunting customs by the British who now control the area, but they have done so reluctantly. After the death of their chief it is clear that they want to go on the traditional hunt and bring back skulls in tribute to their lost leader, but they cannot. They have been forced into "civilized" life. We can't help but contrast them with the soldiers in Billy Prior's part of the novel. After serving in France, Billy Prior finds it difficult to function in civilian England. He believes the war is futile, that it's final days are being stretched out so the diplomats can get better terms in the peace treaty, but he wants to go back to the fight, back to the life he led on the battlefield, more than anything. He cannot stand to be around civilians for long at all. Ms. Barker brings this home when she describes Billy's reaction to hearing the phrase "go over the top" used by party goers to describe a drinking binge or an argument. The phrase comes from the soldiers who used it in reference to climbing out of the safety of their trenches and charging the enemy. A phrase that fills Billy Prior with dread on the battlefield is the newest slang and a source of laughter back home. There must be hundreds of little things like this that infuriate soldiers returning home from battle. One of the best aspects of Ms. Barker's books is how well she understands the effect words can have and how clear she makes it for the reader.In the final section of the book we follow the story of Billy Prior through a journal he keeps during breaks in the final days of the fight. He writes how certain words no longer mean anything. Words like patriotism, honor, courage. While other smaller words have taken on great weight:But now I look round this cellar with the candles burning on the tables and our linked shadows leaping on the walls, and I realize there's another group of words that still mean something. Little words that trip through sentences unregarded: us, them, we, they, here, there. These are the words of power, and long after we're gone, they'll lie about in the language, like the unexploded grenades in these fields, and any one of them'll take your hand off.The Ghost Road by Pat Barker gets my highest rating of five out of five stars. These three books are the highlight of my reading summer and surefire bets for my end of the year top ten. Surefire--what do suppose the chances are that word comes from wartime usage
samfsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting novel of WWI. An English doctor compares and contrasts the customs and beliefs of Polynesian headhunters with the conduct of soldiers in the war.This is the third book in a series, and I read it because it won the Booker prize, without reading the previous novels. It was tough to get started because of that. The author didn¿t waste any time recapping what had happened before, so I had to guess and piece together the characters as best I could. I have to say it is not intended to be read without the preceding novels, but I managed.¿It¿s not worth it¿ is the basic message here, referring to the war. There are also graphic descriptions of homosexual sex too. One of the soldiers is bisexual, engaged to be married, and has sex with female prostitutes, his fiance, and various men. I believe his character may be explained better in the previous novels, or at least the author may give some background.So it¿s interesting, just not that effective standing alone.
Cariola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The third installment of Barker's "Regeneration" trilogy (and a Booker Prize winner), [The Ghost Road] was a bit of a disappointment. I'm not exactly sure why, although I think that Dr. Rivers's digressive reminiscences about his time in Melanesia may have had something to do with it. I'm sure Barker included them to make a comment on human nature, who is civilized and who is not, etc., but it really didn't work for me. Pryor, Sassoon, Owen, and a new character, Hallett, are considered well enough to return to the front, each to devastating results--Barker's comment, again, on the insatiable war machine. I'm not sorry that I read all three books, but I could as easily have stopped after the wonderful [Regeneration].
lizpatanders on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overall this was an enjoyable book, although at times the characters got confusing. I thought it was interesting that it was written from the male perspective by a female author, and I really enjoyed the sections that gave background on the characters before the war. I read this for a class and will now plan on reading two Pat Barker's otehr books, as this is apparently the third novel in her Regeneration trilogy.
mikedraper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In August 1918, Lt. Billy Prior is finished with his recouperation and returning to the front. He had been at the Criaglockhart Military Hospital and treated for shell shock and asthma. His doctor tells him that he shouldn't return to the front due to the asthma and enemy gas attacks but he feels it's his duty to do so.Dr. William Rivers is a psychologist who treats the men at the hosptial. His optimism and belief in the human spirit have helped many men. However, when he treats a soldier named Moffet who suffers from emotional paralysis of the legs, he cures the affliction but finds Moffet in the bathroom attempting to commit suicide.There is also a good description of the upper class and the working class. At one point, an officer tells Prior that they won't be able to understand the W.C.s (working class) because they are so different than the upper class are.Billy tells Rivers that to many of the W.C.s the war is the means with which they will be able to raise their status.The novel won the 1995 Booker Prize and provides a good psychological profile of the soldiers and their acceptance of orders to go to the front and for many, sacrifice their lives.
picardyrose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It shouldn't have ended the way it did, but it had to.
kewing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The concluding volume of Barker's WWI trilogy, preceded by Regeneration and The Eye in the Door. The conflicts are both physical and psychological, linking New Guinea with England and the trenches in France; the horror and insanity of war, the strange proclivity to male honor and duty, are more immediate in this concluding volume. The three volumes need to be read as a whole; like many trilogies, the middle volume, bridging the first and third, would be most difficult to read independent of the other two. Regeneration and Ghost Road can stand alone, but are more potent as part of the trilogy.
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