The Ghost Road
The third volume in Pat Barker's remarkable trilogy, The Ghost Road brilliantly explores the pathos and human cost of World War I through the lives of two men divided by class, but sharing a mutual respect and empathy. One is Lieutenant Billy Prior, cured of shell shock by famed psychologist Dr. William Rivers; the other is Dr. Rivers himself, consumed by the moral dilemma of restoring men to health only to send them back to the battlefield.
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“Ghosts everywhere. Even the living were only ghosts in the making. You learned to ration your commitment to them. This moment in this tent already had the quality of remembered experience. Or perhaps ... Read full review
In August, 1918, Lt. Bily Prior is returning to the front after recouperating from shell shock and asthma at a military hospital in Scotland. Even though the doctor tells him that with his asthma and the enemy gas attacks, that Billy should remain in England, Billy feels obligated to return to the battle lines.
Dr. William Rivers has helped many soldiers in the hosptial. He is a psychologist with excellent optimism and belief in the human spirit. When he helps treat a soldier named Moffet who suffered from emotional leg paralysis, he was happy but then found Moffet locked in a bathroom attempting suicide.
There is a good depiction of the difference between the treatment of upper class soldiers and the working soldiers. One officer tells Billy that these working class soldiers are totally different from us and it's now wonder that we can't rely on them.
The novel won a Booker Prize and provides a good psychological profile of the soldiers and their acceptance to obey orders to return to battle at the front and for many, sacrifice their lives.