Regeneration: War Books [7/15]

by Charlotte Reads Classics

So, I’m back to war! I actually finished this book just before starting Ulysses but didn’t get around to writing about it until now – I’m currently finding my opinions of Ulysses too difficult to summarise! Regeneration is a fantastic book and I’ll definitely read the rest of the trilogy when I allow myself to buy some more books. Surprisingly, a lot of the same people from Goodbye To All That  appeared as characters in this book which was a nice link – Graves himself, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen being a few.

The story revolves around Sassoon and his decisions to write his Soldier’s Declaration, which was a kind of open letter that stated why he didn’t want to fight in the war anymore. Sassoon didn’t object to soldiering in principle, but he disagreed with what he saw as the prolonging of war and needless sacrifice of young lives. He is sent to a military hospital called Craiglockhart (which was a real hospital) specialising in healing soldiers with mental traumas like shell shock, loss of speech, and psychological distress. It raised lots of interesting questions about what a ‘normal’ reaction to the horrors of war would be, and why some soldiers couldn’t carry on when others did. It was moving to read about how much the survivors were suffering, but they were only being recuperated so they could be sent back to die.

I enjoyed the mix of historical fact and fiction and liked the emphasis Barker placed on war as a psychologically damaging experience, which is something Louisa Young did with My Dear I Wanted To Tell You. Is healing more of a modern preoccupation? The books I have read recently that have been published in the last twenty years or so have tried to continue the story past the end of the war, which I have found fascinating.

I bought this book from a charity shop a couple of weeks ago, and when I picked it up to start reading I found an old photograph inside. If finds like this aren’t a good reason to buy second-hand books, I don’t know what are. I’m slightly obsessed with wanting to find out when the photo was taken, and who the boy is, who left it in the book and why.

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