20 Apr 2009

Life Class

Life Class – Pat Barker

Spring 1914. The students of the Slade School Of Art gather in Henry Tonk'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 admit their feelings for one another. Amidst the devastation of Ypres, Paul comes to see the world anew - but have his experiences changed him completely?

I have quite mixed feelings about this novel, with my first impression being how cheap and nasty the book looked – the front cover being quite unremarkable and the pages themselves of poor quality.

That said, I found the first half of the novel to be such easy reading that I would recommend it as strictly holiday or bedtime reading. The characters at this point seemed to me, totally one-dimensional and without exception utterly unappealing. The second half did pick up a pace and had some interesting moments. However it was very similar to many books of its genre though not as well written as most. The characters themselves remained much the same as in the first half with little development except that Elinor became, to me, increasingly vile. The one exception to this being the introduction of Lewis who, being a Quaker, brought a different dimension to the story.

Am I inspired to read more of Pat Barker’s work that comes highly recommended? If this is a typical example then I would if the opportunity arose but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to do so.

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