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The Ghost Road

The Ghost Road is a novel by Pat Barker[?], first published in 1995 and winner of the Booker Prize. It is the third volume of a trilogy which follows the fortunes of shell-shocked officers towards the end of the First World War.

Warning: wikipedia contains spoilers

Siegfried Sassoon, a major character in the first book, Regeneration, is relegated to a minor role in this final volume, in which the main players are the working-class officer, Billy Prior, and the psychoanalyst, William Rivers[?]. Thus Barker explores possible relationships between real-life characters and completely fictional ones.

Prior, despite his new-found peace of mind and engagement to munitions worker Sarah, is a sexual predator who does not hesitate to indulge in casual encounters. His only role is that he never pays for sex - a rule he eventually breaks. This episode is a kind of symbolic capitulation to the inevitability of his death at the Western Front, a fate he shares with the poet, Wilfred Owen.

Rivers, concerned for Prior's safety, finally recognises how he sees him as a kind of adopted son. In contrast with the upper-class officers like Sassoon, with whom he has been able to form warm friendships, he has always found Prior a thorn in his side. As Prior returns to the war, Rivers reminisces uncomfortably about his research expeditions as a young anthropologist.

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