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Life Class by Pat Barker

The Blurb

Spring, 1914. The students at the Slade School of Art gather in Henry Tonks's studio for his life-drawing class. But for Paul Tarrant the class is troubling, underscoring his own uncertainty about making a mark on the world. When war breaks out and the army won't take Paul, he enlists in the Belgian Red Cross just as he and fellow student Elinor Brooke admit their feelings for one another. Amidst the devastation in Ypres, Paul comes to see the world anew - but have his experiences changed him completely?

The Review

Life Class by Pat Barker is a novel that sat on my book shelf for several years. My Aunt and Uncle gave it to me one Christmas, but I only got around to reading it recently. When I started it I was not sure that it was a book I would enjoy. It is a novel set in and after World War I and I do not usually particularly enjoy historical novels of that era.

However, Life Class really deals with the devastation and psychic damage wrought by World War I on all levels of British society it is not about the war per se. In the spring of 1914, a group of students have a life drawing class in an art studio. Paul Tarrant and Elinor Brooke are two parties to a love triangle. At the outset of the war, they turn to each other. After volunteering for the Red Cross, Paul must confront the fact that his views of life, love, and art have changed for ever. “Life Class” a book I really enjoyed.

The Author

Pat Barker CBE, FRSL is an English writer and novelist who was born in Thornaby-on-Tees, England on May 8, 1943. She was educated at London School of Economics and Political Science and her novels have won many awards including the Man Booker Prize, Guardian Fiction Prize.

Her fiction centres on themes of memory, trauma, survival and recovery. Her work is described as direct, blunt and plainspoken. as an author writes movingly to convey human truths. Her uses her skill to relay harrowing experiences of modern warfare. This is matched by the depth of insight she brings to the experience of love in a time of war. She also deals with the morality of art at this time.

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