What a bleak picture this book paints of pre-WWI England - the book begins in 1912. The Brooke family fulfills many of the cliches of English middle class life: a repressed, unaffectionate family; an independent, strong minded and creative girl who chafes under the watchful eye of her parents; a spirited, patriotic son of the empire.
I loved Toby Brooke's name as it, I think very consciously, reminds the reader of the names of both Thoby Stephens (Virgina Woolf's brother) and Rupert Brooke, a handsome and hugely popular young poet killed during WWI. Pat Barker echoes, in part, Woolf's Jacob's Room, a fictional work, which details the life and early death of her brother Thoby. Rupert Brooke makes somewhat of an appearance (in a manner) later ... More of this anon.
... one, or more, of the feti in a multiple pregnancy dies and the fluid component of their body is absorbed, resulting in the mummification, but due to the bones being reasonably well developed by this gestation the fetus continues to maintain a recognizable shape, it is then compressed by the growing twin leading to the flattening. midwifemuse.wordpress.com
|Rupert Brooke, poet, WWI soldier|
It's like the pacifists. You know, some of them, the majority, take on the work of 'national importance' ... and they go and work on a farm or in a hospital. But the others - the absolutists - won't do that. They'd rather go to prison than contribute anything, anything at all, to the war. And I just think that's a stronger position, it's more logical, because the others are just pouring their bits of oil on the combine harvester and telling themselves there's no blood on their hands because they are not actually driving the wretched thing. And I know none of this applies to women but actually I think some of it does. So anyway that's why I don't contribute and ... and I don't paint anything to do with it. Because the war sucks that in too ...
|Thoby, VW's brother|
She agrees. There is a real archive of photos and drawings that existed created by a surgeon named Gillies and a Slade Professor called Alan Tonks (who features in the novel) to help surgeons reconstruct the faces of the soldiers - you may view them on-line now but they are not for the faint of heart.