This second novel in the Regeneration Trilogy continues to expose the horrors of war, through the lives of several men recovering from psychological trauma. Billy Prior, recently released from Craiglockhart hospital, remains under the care of psychiatrist Dr. William Rivers. Prior works in a London-based intelligence unit, investigating an alleged assassination plot. Barker elegantly weaves the threads of Prior’s mental state, his personal relationships, and the assassination plot into a fairly interesting story. As with Regeneration, this book shows a side of the war seldom seen in “mainstream” literature and films, which tend to glamorize combat. And in this installment, Barker also shows how the war has affected British culture, whipping up patriotism and stifling dissent.
But here’s the thing: in the first fourteen pages, the reader is treated to one episode of heterosexual foreplay, followed almost immediately by a more graphic gay sex scene. OK, the character is bisexual, I get it. Ms. Barker, why didn’t you just say so? Did you have to hit me over the head with it? Barker is clearly sympathetic towards her gay and bisexual characters, and accurately portrays the “double life” led by most gay men at that time. The secrecy and repression were quite sad, really. I just felt the erotic scenes were a bit gratuitous.
Having said that, I enjoyed reading more about Dr. Rivers and learning of his treatment methods. This book is a fairly quick read and I am looking forward to completing the trilogy.