This is an excellent book. It is not about the lives of the characters but the way in which Barker uses their lives to re-create the zeitgeist of the time. The artists of the Slade School of Art are loosely based on Nash, Carrington and other painters and Gillies and Tonk were real people engaged in reconstructing the faces of wounded soldiers. Barker provides a link to the archives where Tonk's pastels can been seen. The debate about the extent to which paintings (and by extension, photographs) of the horrors of war should be shown is ongoing.
*** 1/2 stars. ?Toby?s Room? is a sequel to "Life Class" and continues the story of 3 students of the Slade School of Fine Art in London. When the war begins, both Paul Tarrant and Kit Neville serve as volunteers with the Belgian Red Cross. Their friend Elinor Brooke, however, chooses to disregard it. Like Virginia Woolf (who makes a cameo appearance), Elinor thinks that since women are outside the political process the war doesn?t concern her, and she imposes a taboo on herself: the war is not to be acknowledged, in either her art or her life. But her brother, Toby, a doctor, becomes a medical officer at the front and WWI is no longer outside Elinor's life. As stated in the previous review, Ms. Barker has a style that makes you believe she is a contemporary of her characters. Recommend.
history part fascinating; story line predictable.
I didn't enjoy the narrative of this book, although I found the history of the work at Queens riveting and worth the task of completing the book!
Barker?s Life Class characters Elinor Brooke and Paul Tarrant find their paths crossing again when Paul returns to London after an injury and becomes a ?war painter,? a government endeavor to capture images of WW I. But, Elinor seeks him out not for himself but for what he can help her find out about her brother Toby, also lost in the war when serving as a medical officer with a fellow Slade student Kit Neville who becomes one of his stretcher bearers. Kit seems to know something about Toby?s death. Now horribly disfigured himself, will he tell Elinor what she wants to know?
Elinor?s family, particularly her close relationship with Toby, drives the plot of this book. Elinor ambivalence and keeping her distance from the war is challenged. Whether staying home or being in the war, lives will never be what they were. We see Elinor mature as she pursues answers from questions that arise from a note to her found in her brother?s returned jacket pocket.
Barker has such talent. It?s a pleasure reading her fiction, enjoying some of the real Bloomsbury artists who appear and learning about some of the medical men who tried to give new faces to horribly disfigured soldiers. Highly recommended.
Life Class was at least lively; this one is sleepy, though relatively easy to read. The revelation is anticlimactic.
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