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Double vision
Pat Barker
Adult Fiction BARKER

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From Publishers' Weekly:

The quaint English village of Barker's 10th novel is a world away from the wars in Bosnia, Afghanistan and elsewhere that have scarred its main characters, but the specter of violence still looms. Kate Frobisher, a sculptor working on a monumental figure of Jesus, is recovering from a car accident and grieving for her husband, Ben, a war photographer killed in Afghanistan. Stephen Sharkey, a journalist (and friend of Ben's) suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome after covering Bosnia, Rwanda and other conflicts, has left London and a failed marriage to write a book about "the way wars are represented." An ensemble cast gathers around these two haunted figures: Stephen's brother Robert and his family; Alec Braithewaite, the friendly vicar, and his Cambridge-bound daughter Justine; and Peter Wingrave, Kate's studio assistant and Justine's ex. A predictable mix of domestic drama (the Sharkeys' marital woes, a romance between Stephen and Justine) plays out against the backdrop of current events, but the real theme of this insightful, harrowing novel is violence: its impact on victims, but also on those who witness it and those who tell the tale. As Barker's characters are forced to acknowledge, aggression and brutality are close at hand. And Barker spares no unsettling effect animals are turned into bloody heaps of roadkill; Kate grows paranoid about solitary Peter; Justine is the victim of a terrible beating. The effect of such unrelenting darkness is to render the story less dramatic and convincing, but this is still a gripping novel, noteworthy for the author's gifts as a stylist and her formidable, engaged intelligence. (Dec.) Forecast: Barker's fictional take on the psychological costs of contemporary warfare bests other recent efforts (Michael Ignatieff's Charlie Johnson in the Flames [Forecasts, Sept. 15]; Gil Courtemanche, A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali [Forecasts, Sept. 8]), and should benefit by association with Barker's brilliant evocation of WWI in her popular Regeneration Trilogy. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

British journalist Stephen Sharkey has just watched the Twin Towers fall when he discovers that his wife has been unfaithful. He returns home to divorce proceedings while his partner, photographer Ben Frobisher, heads to Afghanistan and dies capturing an eerie image of abandoned tanks. A shaken Stephen heads to the country to live on the property of his brother and sister-in-law, themselves tension-ridden; there he befriends Ben's widow, Kate, a sculptor struggling after a devastating car accident to complete a massive figure of Christ, while launching a gentle affair with his nephew's teenaged nanny. Oh yes, and there's something definitely unsettling about Kate's new assistant, formerly the nanny's boyfriend. This may all sound too neat, but it's not. In effortless prose as sharp and polished as new frost, Barker (Border Crossing) shows how tightly bound we are and how our actions reverberate; every step is fraught with consequence. Over the proceedings hangs a painful question: Can-and should-art attempt to capture the depths of human tragedy? Barker herself leaves the question open, but if you read her new novel, you'll say yes. Highly recommended.-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Kate Frobisher
Sculptor; recovering from an auto accident; her photojournalist husband recently died covering terrorist activity in Afghanistan.

Stephen Sharkey
Emotionally distraught after covering the events of 9/11.

Peter Wingrave
Kate's new studio assistant.

Justine Braithewaite
Age: Young adult
Vicar's daughter; Peter's ex-lover; due to begin studies at Cambridge; working for Stephen as a maid.

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