What happens in The Ghost Road?
The Ghost Road is the third in the series of World War I novels by Pat Barker. The novel is narrated in the present by Billy Prior and in the past by William Rivers.
Billy Prior is a lieutenant who desperately wants to remain in the war. Even though he has asthma and has been injured repeatedly, he keeps returning to the battlefield. He has a fiancé named Sarah who cheats on him, but he cheats on her too. He craves the honor and valor of war. Part of the story includes his diary, which contains entries like this one in Austria.
Arrived here under cover of darkness. Village wretched, people unsmiling, dazed-looking, not surprising when you consider we were bombing them to buggery long ago. (p. 249)
William Rivers is a neurologist who stutters and seems to have had a difficult childhood. He sees the horrors of war firsthand in triage, and it is different than regular medicine. He wants to take care of his patients and ease their suffering.
You poor blighter, Rivers had thought, startled out of compassion. More than any other patient Moffet brought the words ‘Pull yourself together, man’ to the brink of his lips. (p. 20)
Two men, one war. At the end of the novel, both men are dead.