Pat Barker Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although Pat Barker has published book reviews and the short story “Subsidence” (2003), about the Iraq War, she is known primarily as a novelist.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Pat Barker is considered one of the premier British novelists to begin a career in the 1980’s. Critics praised her early novels for their gritty portraits of working-class life. The first novel, Union Street, received the Fawcett Prize in 1983. However, it was her novels about the psychological damage of combat in World War I that earned her the greatest accolades. The second novel of her Regeneration trilogy, The Eye in the Door, brought her the Guardian Fiction Prize and Northern Electric Special Arts Prize, both in 1993. Its sequel, The Ghost Road, won the prestigious Booker Prize for Fiction in 1995, and she was named the Bookseller’s Association Author of the Year in 1996. Subsequently, The Ghost Road was twice named among the all-time best Booker Prize novels.

Barker was awarded honorary degrees from English universities in Teesside, Napier, Hertfordshire, and Durham, as well as the Open University. She was made an honorary fellow of the London School of Economics in 1996. Two of her books were made into films, Union Street (renamed Stanley and Iris, 1989) and Regeneration (1997).


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Barker, Pat. Interview by Donna Perry. In Backtalk: Women Writers Speak Out. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1993. An extensive interview.

Brannigan, John. Pat Barker. New York: Manchester University Press, 2005. Brannigan considers all of Barker’s novels in a critical assessment of their social realism, their examination of gender roles, their treatment of memory, and their narrative style.

Fairweather, Eileen. “The Voices of Women.” The New Statesman, May 14, 1982. Reviews Union Street in the context of feminist writing.

Falcus, Sarah. “A Complex Mixture of Fascination and Distaste: Relationships Between Women in Pat Barker’s Blow Your House Down, Liza’s England, and Union Street.” Journal of Gender Studies 16 (November, 2007): 249-261. Falcus’s thesis is that Barker’s early novels portray women as trapped in imprisoning roles by their gender yet bonding with each other. Falcus examines that bonding in the light of feminist theory.

Fraser, Kennedy. “Ghost Writer.” The New Yorker, March 17, 2008. Kennedy considers the influence of spiritualism in Barker’s family background on her Regeneration trilogy and other novels.

Harris, Greg. “Compulsory Masculinity, Britain, and the Great War: The Literary-Historical Work of Pat Barker.” Critique 39 (Summer, 1998): 290-305. Examines how the Regeneration trilogy frames gender roles during World War I through the psychological work of the character Dr. Rivers.

Hynes, Samuel. “Among Damaged Men.” The New York Times Book Review, March 29, 1992, 1, 23. Reviews Regeneration favorably.

Kemp, Peter. “War Has Been Her Greatest Obsession, and It Looms Large in Her New Novel—But Is This Pat Barker’s Last Battle?” Sunday Times, July 1, 2007. Based on an interview with Barker, Kemp writes of the author’s reasons for returning to World War I as subject matter, and of her interest in artists of the day. Includes biographical information.

Monteith, Sharon. Pat Barker. Tavistock, England: Northcote House, 2002. In a critical overview, Monteith contends that Barker’s fiction combines both individual character and the national mentality in considering the psychological effects of gender and violence in communities under stress from war, crime, or poverty.

Morrison, Blake. “War Stories.” The New Yorker, January 22, 1996, 78-82. An excellent survey of the life and work of Barker, especially the war trilogy.

Westman, Karen. Pat Barker’s “Regeneration”: A Reader’s Guide. New York: Continuum, 2001. Following a short biographical chapter that also recounts the history of the writing of the three novels, Westmann addressed the themes of the Regeneration trilogy in detail. Includes a short bibliography.