Pat Barker has, for a long time, been one of the British contemporary writers I most admire. I first came across her work when, as a teacher in Japan, I managed to persuade a student to buy me a load of books from New York (where he was travelling on business). It was there that I first read the Regeneration trilogy which had won the Booker Prize in 1995. Having read it 10 years ago it remains up there near the top of my absolute best books. How can I describe it? Devastatingly powerful is a start. Reading the trilogy sparked my interest in Siegfried Sassoon and his fellow war poets such as Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke. I also see it as the roots to my interest in the early 20th century in general, especially the inter-war period of the 20s and 30s (we danced all night…).
I am currently reading Life Class which, like the Regeneration trilogy, is set in the Great War. Her ability to recreate that period is quite incredible, not least through her knack of blending factual characters with fictional ones to masterful effect.