Patricia Margaret Barker achieved literary prominence when she was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize for The Ghost Road, the last novel in her trilogy of novels about World War I. Before the publication of this highly regarded trilogy, her reputation had been that of a working-class feminist writer. She was born in a small town near Middlesborough in the industrial north of England. Her first three novels, published by feminist publishing house Virago, are all set in the working-class environment in which she had been raised, and they depict women who are struggling socially and economically.
Raised mostly by her grandparents, who ran a fish-and-chip shop, she developed an ear for the kind of authentic dialogue that she used in her early fiction. Unlike her grandmother, mother, and stepsister, however, she did not become a housecleaner. Instead, she moved to London and became a student at the London School of Economics. Moving back to Middlesborough, she took a post as an adult-education teacher and married David Barker, a zoology professor at the University of Durham. Pat Barker began to write fiction seriously when she was in her thirties, after the birth of a son and daughter, and it was after attending a creative-writing course in 1979 and receiving the encouragement of the novelist Angela Carter that she began depicting the lives of working-class women.
Barker’s first novel, Union Street, which drew significantly on her own experiences, is a bleak depiction of working-class domestic life. Her next novel, Blow Your House Down, was inspired by a notorious Yorkshire serial killer and is narrated through the defiant voices of the prostitutes who are his potential victims. The Century’s Daughter is told from the perspective of a working-class woman of about eighty. The novels that first brought Barker recognition, however, are almost exclusively those with male characters. The three works about men suffering from the effects of combat during World War I...
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