book reviews, British novels, english literature, Ghost Road, historical fiction, London Blitz, Noonday, Novels, Pat Barker, Reading Suggestions, Toby's Room, woman's literature, World War II literature
Pat Barker’s Noonday is the final novel in her WWII trilogy. I previously read and reviewed Ghost Road, her Booker winning novel that was the final novel of her so-called Regeneration WWI trilogy. In both cases it is unnecessary to read the prior books in order to follow the plot. Pat Barker’s strength is character development: minor characters are not ignored in passing. In addition, her works capture the war genre from perspectives other than the battlefield. In Ghost Road it is the hospital in England where soldiers removed from the battlefield were treated. Their was also a cultural anthropology back-story in Oceania as part of one of the physician’s flashback. It was this element that made the novel distinctive. Noonday also has a subplot, but for me it was an unnecessary distraction. The novel’s venue is London during the Blitz and one of the characters is either a medium, a fraud, or a schizophrenic. The minor subplot is plausible, but in my view a more detailed examination of London during the Blitz is warranted instead. It is not that Ms. Barker does not cover the territory, but it seems superficial. The focus is upon the personal relationships of the main characters; doubtlessly a carry-over from the prior novels in the trilogy. In some respects it borders on a commercial romance novel, although I am overstating this. Catastrophes challenge marital relationships and this was certainly the case in WWII and other wars.The principal characters work as ambulance drivers and rescue wardens finding people injured or dead in bombed buildings. Ms. Barker covers the territory, and yet I didn’t feel the tension and fear in her writing. In defense, life goes on even in the worst of circumstances and there is the so-called British stiff-upper lip that might justify not overstating the tragedy that Londoners endured.
The book is a fast read and will likely entertain. It is just considerably below the standard she set in Ghost Road.