Synopsis (from Amazon)
Insomnia, exhaustion, recurring nightmares – Stephen Sharkey is suffering the aftereffects of his career as a war reporter, most recently in Afghanistan, where Ben Frobisher, war photographer and friend, has been shot dead on assignment. Hanging up his flak jacket and turning his back on the everyday reality of war, Stephen moves into a quiet and peaceful cottage in the north of England. It seems the perfect environment in which to write his book on the representations of war – one that will be based largely on Ben Frobisher’s work. But Stephen’s supposed isolation offers no protection from other people’s suffering or the shattering effects of human brutality . . .
Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy was a favourite of mine while in college, and I always have high hopes when I come across other novels by her. I thought I may have found it on reading ‘Winner of the 1995 Booker Prize’ on the front cover of Double Vision. As I into the novel though I began to think this couldn’t be true. For one thing the book spoke of 9/11 which of course hadn’t happened in 1995. On further research I found that Barker did win the 1995 Booker award, but for The Ghost Road, not Double Vision. I did think the cover was very misleading however and it probably effected somewhat how I approached the book.
The book started off quite well. I liked Kate and found her interesting. I think a whole story focussing on her would have been interesting, and I ended the book wanting to know more about what had happened to her, and about the mystery to do with her sculpture. Steven I liked well enough but was more interested in him as a vehicle for Ben’s story. In fact I had the impression that most of the story would be about him and Ben and felt let down that Ben’s story was only really given a mention a few times. I think in this sense the blurb was very misleading. I thought Peter was a really interesting character and I would have loved to see his view point, and found out what his motivations were, although there is something I like about the mystery there and I am happy to imagine.
I got the feeling that Barker started this story with one idea in mind, but gradually got distracted by different story lines, meaning that none were ever really completed to my satisfaction. Although I generally enjoyed the progression of the storys I was disappointed with the conclusion of them. The actual ending that was there I found pretty pointless, in fact it felt like Barker believed she needed some action and added the end of the story simply to give that. (highlight for spoiler)The whole robbery idea seemed completely out of sorts with the rest of the story and I didn’t really care enough about Justine for it to be acceptable as another storyline. I also didn’t understand that suddenly Stephen was in love with Justine. It was never about love before, they both knew it wasn’t going to last, they didn’t really want it too. It felt misogynist that Stephen suddenly loved her when she was venerable. It felt like he loved her because she was venerable and liked the idea of being the big strong man. The Stephen/Justine storyline was never one of romance for me, and I was happy with that until the end when Barker seemed to was to make it into a romance.
I do think a lot of what I disliked was to do with the way the book was presented. From the synopsis I expected more of a ‘war’ book (which in general I enjoy). From the cover I expected an award winner.
If you’re not a reader of Barker please don’t start with this one. Start with Regeneration. Please. The series is fantastic. Life Class isn’t bad, but not a patch on Regeneration. This one feel free to read, but don’t expect too much, I think half my dislike was caused by my expectations.