Toby's Room

Toby's Room

eBook - 2012
Average Rating:
Rate this:
From Booker Prize winner Pat Barker, a masterful novel that portrays the staggering human cost of the Great War. Admirers of her Regeneration Trilogy as well as fans of Downton Abbey and War Horse will be enthralled.

With Toby's Room , a sequel to her widely praised previous novel Life Class , the incomparable Pat Barker confirms her place in the pantheon of Britain's finest novelists. This indelible portrait of a family torn apart by war focuses on Toby Brooke, a medical student, and his younger sister Elinor. Enmeshed in a web of complicated family relationships, Elinor and Toby are close: some might say too close. But when World War I begins, Toby is posted to the front as a medical officer while Elinor stays in London to continue her fine art studies at the Slade, under the tutelage of Professor Henry Tonks. There, in a startling development based in actual fact, Elinor finds that her drafting skills are deployed to aid in the literal reconstruction of those maimed in combat.

One day in 1917, Elinor has a sudden premonition that Toby will not return from France. Three weeks later the family receives a telegram informing them that Toby is "Missing, Believed Killed" in Ypres. However, there is no body, and Elinor refuses to accept the official explanation. Then she finds a letter hidden in the lining of Toby's uniform; Toby knew he wasn't coming back, and he implies that fellow soldier Kit Neville will know why.

Toby's Room is an eloquent literary narrative of hardship and resilience, love and betrayal, and anguish and redemption. In unflinching yet elegant prose, Pat Barker captures the enormity of the war's impact--not only on soldiers at the front but on the loved ones they leave behind.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, 2012.
ISBN: 9780385535021
Branch Call Number: Downloadable Ebook
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: HCPLC OverDrive

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Mar 08, 2019

In this novel Barker maintains the high literary standard we expect, and the in depth understanding of WWI and its protagonists we have come to expect.

The characters are very real and very flawed. Protagonist is a talented but immature artist and the boys sent off to WWI trenches are products of their socialization. Interesting how Toby has worshiped his mother but relationship with his sister is fraught with guilt, explorations of incest, homophobia and self-hatred.
I found this a tough read, however, this is the kind of story that must endure into the next century. As 'uncommon reader' has written [below]: "It is not about the lives of the characters but ...about the zeitgeist of the time."

Oct 11, 2015

This is an excellent book. It is not about the lives of the characters but the way in which Barker uses their lives to re-create the zeitgeist of the time. The artists of the Slade School of Art are loosely based on Nash, Carrington and other painters and Gillies and Tonk were real people engaged in reconstructing the faces of wounded soldiers. Barker provides a link to the archives where Tonk's pastels can been seen. The debate about the extent to which paintings (and by extension, photographs) of the horrors of war should be shown is ongoing.

Aug 10, 2013

*** 1/2 stars. ?Toby?s Room? is a sequel to "Life Class" and continues the story of 3 students of the Slade School of Fine Art in London. When the war begins, both Paul Tarrant and Kit Neville serve as volunteers with the Belgian Red Cross. Their friend Elinor Brooke, however, chooses to disregard it. Like Virginia Woolf (who makes a cameo appearance), Elinor thinks that since women are outside the political process the war doesn?t concern her, and she imposes a taboo on herself: the war is not to be acknowledged, in either her art or her life. But her brother, Toby, a doctor, becomes a medical officer at the front and WWI is no longer outside Elinor's life. As stated in the previous review, Ms. Barker has a style that makes you believe she is a contemporary of her characters. Recommend.

Jan 06, 2013

history part fascinating; story line predictable.

MemosInStilettos Nov 26, 2012

I didn't enjoy the narrative of this book, although I found the history of the work at Queens riveting and worth the task of completing the book!

Oct 18, 2012

Barker?s Life Class characters Elinor Brooke and Paul Tarrant find their paths crossing again when Paul returns to London after an injury and becomes a ?war painter,? a government endeavor to capture images of WW I. But, Elinor seeks him out not for himself but for what he can help her find out about her brother Toby, also lost in the war when serving as a medical officer with a fellow Slade student Kit Neville who becomes one of his stretcher bearers. Kit seems to know something about Toby?s death. Now horribly disfigured himself, will he tell Elinor what she wants to know?

Elinor?s family, particularly her close relationship with Toby, drives the plot of this book. Elinor ambivalence and keeping her distance from the war is challenged. Whether staying home or being in the war, lives will never be what they were. We see Elinor mature as she pursues answers from questions that arise from a note to her found in her brother?s returned jacket pocket.

Barker has such talent. It?s a pleasure reading her fiction, enjoying some of the real Bloomsbury artists who appear and learning about some of the medical men who tried to give new faces to horribly disfigured soldiers. Highly recommended.

hgeng63 Oct 11, 2012

Life Class was at least lively; this one is sleepy, though relatively easy to read. The revelation is anticlimactic.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at HCPLC

To Top