Barker, Pat. The Ghost Road. New York: Dutton, 1995. Summary
: The final volume of The Regeneration Trilogy
. Billy Prior heads back to the front to live (and die) his last days fighting, while Dr. Rivers remembers his anthropological sojourn in Melanesia and his interaction with the wise man of the village, Njiru. Comments
: Ah, after two such plain-spoken yet profound prequels, what a disappointment! This novel bounces back and forth almost exclusively between Dr. Rivers' recollections of the indigenous people of Melanesia and Prior's experiences (toward the latter half entirely in journal entry form) back at the front in France. Note the irony that the doctor reminisces while the officer writes. For the first time, I felt that Pat Barker was feeling constrained by the historical events surrounding her characters; the two storylines were by no means an easy fit. The themes that appear elsewhere in the trilogy--the ethics of pacifism, the homosexual threat of the military, etc.--are quickly rehashed but not expanded. The only significant new addition is Njiru's revelation of spirit or God Ave, the "destroyer of peoples," that presages disease or war and his final lesson to Rivers: how to exorcise it. This rhymes with the author's account of the end of the war and a dying soldier's declaration that "It's not worth it." Though Prior seems to have convinced himself otherwise, that about sums it all up. With regards to both war AND this novel, that is. Notes
: hardcover, 1st American edition, 2nd printing Rating
- The Ghost Road ends Barker's explosive trilogy with a disappointing fizzle. Essential only for the completists amongst us.