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Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Toby's Room by Pat Barker. Nicola Barber Narrator. This indelible portrait of a family torn apart by war focuses on Toby Brooke, a medical student, and his younger sister Elinor. Enmeshed in a web of complicated family relationships, Elinor and Toby are close: some might say too close. But when World War I begins, Toby is posted to the front as a medical officer while Elinor stays in London to continue her fine art studies at the Slade, under the tutelage of Professor Henry Tonks.

There, in a startling development based in actual fact, Elinor finds that her drafting skills are deployed to aid in the literal reconstruction of those maimed in combat. One day in , Elinor has a sudden premonition that Toby will not return from France. However, there is no body, and Elinor refuses to accept the official explanation. Get A Copy. Hardback , pages. Published October 2nd by Doubleday first published More Details Original Title.

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Life Class 2. Walter Scott Prize Nominee Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.


To ask other readers questions about Toby's Room , please sign up. Does this book make sense without reading the first? Dawn Nelson yes but better to read them in order. See all 3 questions about Toby's Room…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Toby's Room Life Class, 2. Nov 04, Paul rated it it was amazing Shelves: world-war-one.

Somehow I have managed to read the second volume of this trilogy first. Life Class is the first and I will read that next. It is a stand-alone novel though. There is an awful lot going on here. Barker has taken a group of artists studying at The Slade to examine what the role of the artist is during wartime. Th Somehow I have managed to read the second volume of this trilogy first. The first novel in the trilogy is set in ; this one alternates between and Their teacher Henry Tonks is one of the real life characters in the book Woolf and Ottoline Morrell also turn up.

This is another of the themes, how soldiers who were gay were treated. Anyone who was reported for homosexual activity would be court martialled and could face ten years in prison. Another theme focuses on how a woman artist should react to the war and we follow Elinor as she makes decisions about what to do. The central mystery of the book is how Toby Brooke dies, he is missing believed killed and Elinor expends a good deal of energy finding out what happens. One of the most powerful parts of the book focuses on men who has serious facial disfigurements and looks at how society reacts to them and what is to be done with them.

The Queen Mary hospital in Sidcup is the hospital for those with severe facial injuries. Tonks and the surgeon Gillies are based there. Tonks painted and drew the men who were disfigured and Gilles operated on them, pioneering reconstructive surgery. The drawings that Tonks produced can now be seen online.

The relationship between Elinor and Toby is complex and for a time sexual and her search for the manner of his death is as much a search for an ending and resolution. There is no flowery wordplay and the novel is direct and powerful. Barker is, as ever, looking at the human response to traumatic events. The portrait of Bloomsbury in the book is as much negative as positive, especially about modernism. View all 8 comments.

And that I could learn a great deal about the world and humanity through books that considered war and its consequences. A companion piece, perhaps. It began in the summer of when Elinor Brooke, a student at the Slade School of Art, travelled from London, back to her childhood home.

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It was not a happy home. Her elder sister, Rachel, was distant and critical of the choices she had made.

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But Elinor was close to her brother, Toby. Maybe too close. Something happened between them that summer that changed their relationship, and shook Elinor. And then the story moves forward, to He is badly wounded, strapped to a stretcher, but he is alive. And Toby is dead.

Dispatches from the front

Grief hits Elinor when the brown paper parcel contains his possessions is delivered. And then she begins to ask questions. Why did the War Office say that he was missing presumed dead? Why was there an unfinished letter among his possessions. And why did his old friend, Kit, who had been with him not write?

She must have answers. Elinor enlists Paul to help her approach him. Elinor finds her purpose working with Tonks.

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And in time, as Paul forms a tentative friendship with Kit, he finds the answers to her questions. Pat Barker writes well, without fuss and with clarity, always with the story to the fore. But she held me at a distance. At first I found it difficult to care about these people and their lives. Then though something changed. And I was fascinated by the two characters drawn from life — Harold Gillies and Henry Tonks — and I had to learn more about them. The inclusion of other real life characters, members of the Bloomsbury group, who crossed paths with Elinor, worked less well.

It was a distraction, and it felt like name-dropping. There were more interesting, more important more relevant themes to consider. The relation of art and war. The roles of women in war. The emotions, the realities, that was draws out. The difficulty in living with the consequences of war. Age and experience alters perceptions … It is also because this is a very different story, and because many of its principal characters do not naturally call on feelings of understanding or compassion. I still consider this a companion piece, but it is also a book that stands up in its own right and has much to offer any reader with an interest in its themes.

View 1 comment. Jan 10, Bill rated it it was amazing Shelves: female-author , historical-fiction , library-book , , favorites , fiction , lit-fiction. This is another typical Pat Barker book. By that I mean it's a really excellent read.