Pat Barker was born in Yorkshire and began her literary career in her forties, when she took a short writing course taught by Angela Carter. Encouraged by Carter to continue writing and exploring the lives of working class women, she sent her fiction out to publishers. Thirty-five years later, she has published fifteen novels, including her masterful Regeneration Trilogy, been made a CBE for services to literature, and won awards including the Guardian Fiction Prize and the UK's highest literary honour, the Booker Prize. She lives in Durham and her latest novel is The Silence of the Girls.
In her eighth novel Barker, author of the award-winning World War I "Regeneration Trilogy," returns to the contemporary urban Newcastle setting of Another World. On a gray September afternoon, Tom and Lauren Seymour are walking along the riverbank arguing about the state of their failing marriage when a young man, after swallowing a bottle of pills, jumps into the river in front of them. Tom rescues the would-be suicide and later discovers that he has saved Danny Miller, a convicted murderer. A child psychologist, Tom had testified 13 years earlier at the then ten-year-old Danny's trial. Did his expert testimony, as Danny believes, sway the jury's verdict and send the boy to prison? Now released and living under an assumed name, Danny asks Tom to help him confront his childhood traumas, especially the murder of the old woman for which he is blamed. Still retaining a trace of guilt about the trial (perhaps Danny was as innocent as he claimed), Tom agrees and soon crosses the border between professional detachment and personal involvement. As with Barker's other books, this is a subtle psychological tale with an edge of menace. Is Danny a victim or a manipulative psychopath? Barker also captures the grittiness and bleak beauty of England's north and its people. Unfortunately, the novel falls flat at the end, leaving the reader disappointed and dissatisfied. Not one of her best efforts. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/00.] Wilda Williams, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Britain's Barker is best known here for her magnificent Regeneration Trilogy, based on post-World War I cases of shell shock; her new novel, set in a dour Northumbrian city, carries some of the same sense of dread discovery into contemporary civilian life. Years ago, when eight-year-old Danny Miller was accused of the murder of an old woman, psychiatrist Tom Seymour provided damning psychological testimony at the trial. Danny was sent away to a home and vanished from Tom's life, if not from his sometimes guilty memory. Then one day Tom and his wife, Lauren, out for a walk, thwart a watery suicide attempt. The drowning young man turns out to be Danny, and he badly needs Tom's help in coming to terms with his childhood trauma. So far, so good, and Barker, with her customary vivid writing and strong narrative pull, has set up a tantalizing series of questions. Was Danny really guilty? Was Tom's evidence responsible for his upended life? And what has the experience done to Tom and his shaky marriage? When Lauren decamps and a new child murder re-ignites interest in the old Danny Miller case, the stakes are perilously raised for both Tom and Danny. There are some wonderfully tense scenes of psychological exploration; the drear Newcastle atmosphere is palpable; and Barker's ear for dialogue is, as always, acute. In the end, however, the lack of a wider resonance of the kind that made the war books and the later Another World so memorable leaves the book, for all the quality of its craft, feeling flat. It is a convincing psychological thriller, but Barker enthusiasts have come to expect much more than that. (Mar.) Forecast: As suggested, this novel is not as powerfully realized as Barker's best books, and it will likely prove disappointing to some of her U.S. admirers, which may hamper sales down the road. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.