This gripping novel explores the effects of violence on the journalists and artists who have dedicated themselves to representing it. In the aftermath of September 11, reeling from the effects of reporting from New York City, two British journalists, a writer, Stephen Sharkey, and a photographer, Ben Frobisher, part ways. Stephen returns to ...
This gripping novel explores the effects of violence on the journalists and artists who have dedicated themselves to representing it. In the aftermath of September 11, reeling from the effects of reporting from New York City, two British journalists, a writer, Stephen Sharkey, and a photographer, Ben Frobisher, part ways. Stephen returns to England shattered; he divorces his duplicitous wife and quits his job. Ben follows the war on terror to Afghanistan and is killed. Stephen retreats to a cottage in the country to write a book about violence, and what he sees as the reporting journalist's or photographer's complicity in it. Ben's widow, Kate, a sculptor, lives nearby, and as she and Stephen learn about each other their world speedily shrinks, in pleasing but also disturbing ways. The sinister events that begin to take place in this small town, so far from the theaters of war Stephen has retreated from, will force him to act instinctively, violently, and to face his most painful revelations about himself.
Publishers Weekly, 2003-11-10 The quaint English village of Barker's 10th novel is a world away from the wars in Bosnia, Afghanistan and elsewhere that have scarred its main characters, but the specter of violence still looms. Kate Frobisher, a sculptor working on a monumental figure of Jesus, is recovering from a car accident and grieving for her husband, Ben, a war photographer killed in Afghanistan. Stephen Sharkey, a journalist (and friend of Ben's) suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome after covering Bosnia, Rwanda and other conflicts, has left London and a failed marriage to write a book about "the way wars are represented." An ensemble cast gathers around these two haunted figures: Stephen's brother Robert and his family; Alec Braithewaite, the friendly vicar, and his Cambridge-bound daughter Justine; and Peter Wingrave, Kate's studio assistant and Justine's ex. A predictable mix of domestic drama (the Sharkeys' marital woes, a romance between Stephen and Justine) plays out against the backdrop of current events, but the real theme of this insightful, harrowing novel is violence: its impact on victims, but also on those who witness it and those who tell the tale. As Barker's characters are forced to acknowledge, aggression and brutality are close at hand. And Barker spares no unsettling effect animals are turned into bloody heaps of roadkill; Kate grows paranoid about solitary Peter; Justine is the victim of a terrible beating. The effect of such unrelenting darkness is to render the story less dramatic and convincing, but this is still a gripping novel, noteworthy for the author's gifts as a stylist and her formidable, engaged intelligence. (Dec.) Forecast: Barker's fictional take on the psychological costs of contemporary warfare bests other recent efforts (Michael Ignatieff's Charlie Johnson in the Flames [Forecasts, Sept. 15]; Gil Courtemanche, A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali [Forecasts, Sept. 8]), and should benefit by association with Barker's brilliant evocation of WWI in her popular Regeneration Trilogy. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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