Durham Book Festival; Pat Barker

There is probably going to be a collective intake of breath, some shock and horror and disapproval when I tell you that I have not yet read a novel by Pat Barker. Granny Savidge was a fan, many people whose opinions I hold highly have told me… It is the war thing, too many books about WWI or WWII have left me cold. That said, since visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, my mind has turned of late to returning to it and trying again – especially as I will be working on the Tower of London Poppies coming to Liverpool. So when I saw Pat Barker was on at the festival it was a no brainer. The fact she said ‘I like to give my readers stories, humour… and lots of vigorous sex’ within a few minutes of getting on stage made me think Barker might just be the author to get me back into fiction around the world wars.  

This was further proved over the following hour that Pat Barker was on stage with Professor Sharon Monteith discussing her latest novel Noonday and the novels leading up to it. During the conversation she talked about sex, a bit more, and how characters sex lives can tell you all about them. She also discussed on of my favourite things in fiction, secrets. In fact it seemed a lot of her latest trilogy is about the secrets we have from ourselves and others as well as the lies we do the same with.

Another thing which held her in all the higher esteem was that she likes to write about us northerners. It was really interesting when she talked about her northern roots and said was not artistic fusion just language she grew up with and the way women spoke when she was growing up. As someone who grew up with a lot of northern women around him… Tick, tick tick.

She also discussed her thoughts on historical fiction and fiction itself. She said she is definitely not a historian, while she it at university she was never very good.  (We all laughed a lot through the session, she was very warm and very funny.) she was emphatic that historical fiction is not history. It can be a false take, if fits the character it’s the right take. You just can’t move history about or change the facts to suit your fiction but often you don’t need to!

In terms of fiction in general she talked about its power. She said she is reluctant to write from single perspective as what’s brilliant about fiction is that it can give sympathetic portraits of groups of people who differ on opinion, politics and morals. In doing so it also means readers are invited to empathise with differing point of views. In fact she is now proud of fiction for making people more empathetic. So she loves readers and reading too. Tick. Tick.
So all in all I was sold. Would I read Pat Barker? Yes. Was I fool for not buying a book? Yes! And so book was bought. I almost bought all the copies I could to compensate but held back for now.  

So who else has read Pat Barker and what did you think? Thoughts welcome as always!

9 Comments

Filed under Durham Book Festival 2015

9 responses to “Durham Book Festival; Pat Barker

  1. Kateg

    Loved Regeneration as hard as I felt parts of it were to read. I have not read the rest of the trilogy, so thanks for putting it back on my radar. It was fun to read about Pat Barker; when I read Regeneration, I assumed she was a man. It wasn’t until we discussed it at book group that I learned different

  2. I have read The Regeneration trilogy and loved it. I read Border Crossing some years ago and enjoyed Life Class and Toby’s Room a few weeks ago I read and reviewed the final part of that trilogy Noonday. I loved it.

  3. David

    I had to read ‘Regeneration’ at university as part of a war poetry project (this was in 1996 and our tutor seemed only to be aware of books that had won the Booker Prize!) and loved it, so went on to read ‘The Eye in the Door’. I have to say I wasn’t enamoured of that one but feel sure if I read it again now I’d get a lot more out of it. Anyway, as a result I didn’t read ‘The Ghost Road’ and didn’t pick up a Barker again until ‘Life Class’. That and ‘Toby’s Room’ are wonderful novels for the way they see war through an artist’s eyes and also look at the ways art is used in war. Last month I read the conclusion of that trilogy, ‘Noonday’ and was really disappointed – it just seemed like a missed opportunity to me (it seems to have had largely lukewarm reviews in the press too). Still, she’s a fine writer and I fully intend to get around to more of her novels sooner rather than later.

  4. Consider me part of the collective intake of breath. You’ve never read Pat Barker?!
    I’m almost jealous – you’ve a fantastic journey ahead of you and you’ve picked a good place to start – the Regeneration trilogy is fantastic.
    I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of it. Pat Barker is one of my favourite authors – if she wrote website terms & conditions I’d have to read them!

  5. I’ve never found Pat Barker’s novels an easy read, until ‘ Life Class’. They aren’t ‘enjoyable’ , they make you think and examine difficult subjects. In fact, after ‘Union Street’ and ‘Blow Your House Down’ ‘The Regeneration Trilogy’ was pretty stress-free. She’s an excellent writer, but sometimes you need to take a rest between her books.

  6. sharkell

    I’ve read quite a few Pat Barkers and have enjoyed them all but I particularly enjoyed the Regeneration Trilogy and Toby’s Room. I’m also jealous that you get to experience them new. Luckily I still have a few more to read.

  7. The Regeneration Trilogy is excellent, and the best war novels I have ever read. I really need to pick up something else she has written…

  8. Pingback: Durham Book Festival; Patrick Gale & Liza Klaussman | Savidge Reads

  9. Pingback: Durham Book Festival; It’s Been A Bookish Blast | Savidge Reads

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