Pat Barker’s most recent novels, Double Vision (2003) and Life Class (2007), are set at what appear to be the margins of modern war, at either end of what the historian Eric Hobsbawm has called ‘the most murderous century’ (Hobsbawm, 1987, 149): Northumbria in the aftermath of the break-up of Yugoslavia, the Slade School of Fine Art in the months leading up to the Great War in 1914. This is not the first time that Barker has chosen protagonists who are artists, but there is a further reflexive dimension involved in the creation of the sculptor Kate Frobisher, and the painters Paul Tarrant, Elinor Brooke and Kit Neville (the latter characters drawing on the historical Slade students Paul Nash, Dora Carrington and C. R. W. Nevinson). These latest novels are about our vicarious relations to human suffering and, ultimately, about our reading, and her writing, of fictions of military violence such as the Regeneration trilogy.
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