Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pat Barker, LIFE CLASS

The title is a play on words, gesturing both to the class at the Slade (Art School in London) and the sort of lessons war teaches about life. This is what I think of as almost an old-fashioned novel--not a lot of action, but several character arcs that intersect. Oh ... and beautiful writing. The lines are never as good out of context, so I won't try, but Barker's prose is stunning at times. The story begins in the 1910s and concerns a small group of artists, in a love triangle; Elinor refuses to look at the war; Neville is already famous as a bold artist, but a narcissist; Paul tries to enlist but is turned away, so works in one of the hospitals near Ypres, and eventually turns away from his artificial landscapes and paints the tragedies of war. It's about love, but also about the moral role of art in a world at war. Liked it very much.

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