Tag Archives: war fiction

#BookReview ‘Double Vision’ by Pat Barker #WW2 #literary

This is different from a lot of the war fiction by Pat Barker in that it deals with the aftermath of war rather than life during war. Double Vision is set in Barker’s NE England, with both countryside and city drawn clearly. Pat BarkerWar reporter Stephen Sharkey returns to the NE to stay in his brother’s isolated holiday cottage, he has resigned his job and plans to write a book. It seems idyllic, peaceful, but his dreams are full of war memories, particularly the body of a girl discovered in a Sarajevo ruin, raped and murdered. Kate Frobisher, widow of Sharkey’s war photographer colleague Ben, is a sculptor. She is struggling too, with being alone, and with injuries sustained in a car accident. Kate’s progress with the sculpture of a man, with the deadline looming, forms the spine of this novel.
This is not a love story in that there is no romance but it is a story about the love of family, of community, of responsibility. And it is also about the opposite of love: hate, as done to the girl in that Sarajevo ruin. The horrors that man does to man, in wartime and ordinary time, and whether forgiveness and love can redeem those horrors.
Barker populates her story with a tightly-drawn circle of characters, puts them into relationships, then mixes things up. Kate cannot physically cope with the work required to sculpt and so hires a man to do the heavy lifting, a man recommended by the local vicar Alec. Justine, the sister of the local vicar, is a part-time nanny for Sharkey’s nephew, she and Sharkey become lovers. Then there is Stephen’s brother Robert and his wife Beth, on the outside their life in a beautiful country house seems beautiful. But is it? And who is Peter, the gardener/labourer who becomes Kate’s assistant, who seems to lurk quietly in the background.
There is a tension underlying this story but it is not a thriller, there is not a murderer lurking in the shadows, but Barker makes you want to read on, to find out what happens to these people. I love Pat Barker’s writing, she has a minimal style which reminds me of Hemingway. She seems incapable of writing an unnecessary word. Here’s one small example: ‘His sleep was threadbare, like cheap curtains letting in too much light.’ I know just what she means.

For my reviews of other Pat Barker novels, click the title below:-

If you like this, try:-
‘Casting Off’ by Elizabeth Jane Howard
‘The Aftermath’ by Rhidian Brook
‘The Little Red Chairs’ by Edna O’Brien

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
DOUBLE VISION by Pat Barker http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1VJ #bookreview by @SandraDanby

My Top 5… World War Two novels

This was an impossible list to write. My childhood was filled with World War Two novels and films, plus lots of cowboy and westerns too, thanks to my father. So this list combines childhood favourites with literature discovered in later years.

‘Sophie’s Choice’ by William Styron World War TwoWho can forget the book, or that scene in the 1982 film. Sophie’s Choice: the phrase now commonly known to mean ‘an impossible choice’. Buy now

‘Where Eagles Dare’ by Alistair MacLean World War TwoThe 1968 film: Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton, need I say more? I gobbled Alistair MacLean’s books as a child; cheap paperbacks bought by my father and read by us all. Old-fashioned now, but still great page-turners. Buy now

‘Schindler’s Ark’ by Thomas Keneally World War TwoI bought this one in July 1983 after it won the 1982 Booker Prize. In 1993 it was made into the film Schindler’s List starring Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern and a young Ralph Fiennes as the terrifying Amon Goeth. Buy now

‘Fortunes of War 1-3’ [The Balkan Trilogy] by Olivia Manning World War TwoGuy and Harriet Pringle [aka a very young Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thomspon, then married in real life, in the 1987 BBC television production]. I read the trilogy with hunger, back-to-back. They are still on my bookshelf, in fact all of these top five books are still on my bookshelf as are the others listed below. Buy now

‘Empire of the Sun’ by JG Ballard World War TwoAnother book turned into a great film. Features the Batman actor as a child, Christian Bale. This was the edition I bought, and my introduction to Ballard. After this, I bought many more of his books. Buy now

I have many more favourites:-
Fatherland and Enigma by Robert Harris
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
The Eagle has Landed by Jack Higgins
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
Restless by William Boyd
Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

Others on my to-read pile?
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada
Night by Elie Wiesel

Do you agree with my other ‘Top 5’ choices?:-
My Top 5… music to write to
My top 5… novels about paintings
My Top 5… the Booker winners I re-read, and why

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
My Top 5 #WW2 novels http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1eh via @SandraDanby