This is one of those books where I get why it's acclaimed and award winning, but I didn't really enjoy it that much. Granted, I'm not sure if these novels are meant to be enjoyed since I would definitely classify them in that literary fiction category that's more about teaching than enjoying. However, even within that, I can't say the novel particularly moved me. I thought it was dark and oppressive but in a way that actually turned me off from the novel. It isn't a very long novel but it took me over a week to read because I never felt the desire to keep going.
Like the first and previous novel in this trilogy, Barker explores the psychological affects on the men fighting in World War I. Dr. Rivers and Billy Prior reappear, though the focus has shifted a bit since the majority of the narrative takes place in London. Billy Prior and another man have been released from the asylum, and have been reintegrated into life, though they obviously are still haunted.
While the previous novel dealt with famous historical figures, this one focuses more on fictional characters though Barker adds in more historical events, including a threatened expose of gays and lesbians in Great Britain. She also devotes a great deal of time to exploring the Pacifist movement in Great Britain, using a childhood friend of Billy Prior to connect the two narratives. Prior is very torn on his feelings because he certainly sees the bravery in his friend's stance and standing by it, but he can't help but think of how much worse the men at the front have endured.
I think maybe I would have liked this more if I was less knowledgeable about the subject. Since I don't really like the characters (they just seem very flat to me), I think the main draw would have been the subject matter. However, I've already read a nonfiction piece of pacifism in Great Britain during World War I (To End All Wars) so it's not like I was even gaining much insight into a new topic. I already have the last book in the trilogy, and it is one of my goals to read at least twelve World War I books this year (or one per month), I am going to finish it out. Maybe the next one will be a better experience.