Pat Barker: Toby's Room

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Pat Barker Toby's Room
  • Название:
    Toby's Room
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Hamish Hamilton
  • Жанр:
    Историческая проза / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2012
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • Рейтинг книги:
    3 / 5
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Toby's Room: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Pat Barker, Booker prize-winning author of the Regeneration trilogy returns to WWI in this dark, compelling novel of human desire, wartime horror and the power of friendship. Toby and Elinor, brother and sister, friends and confidants, are sharers of a dark secret, carried from the summer of 1912 into the battlefields of France and wartime London in 1917. When Toby is reported 'Missing, Believed Killed', another secret casts a lengthening shadow over Elinor's world: how exactly did Toby die — and why? Elinor's fellow student Kit Neville was there in the fox-hole when Toby met his fate, but has secrets of his own to keep. Enlisting the help of former lover Paul Tarrant, Elinor determines to uncover the truth. Only then can she finally close the door to Toby's room. Moving from the Slade School of Art to Queen Mary's Hospital, where surgery and art intersect in the rebuilding of the shattered faces of the wounded, Toby's Room is a riveting drama of identity, damage, intimacy and loss from the author of The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road. It is Pat Barker's most powerful novel yet.

Pat Barker: другие книги автора


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She was thoroughly fed up. As soon as possible after the men joined them, she excused herself, saying she needed an early night.

As she closed the door behind her, she heard Father ask, ‘What’s the matter with her?’

‘Oh, you know,’ Mother said. ‘Girls.’

Meaning? Nothing that made her feel better about herself, or them.

Next morning after breakfast Toby announced that he was going to walk to the old mill.

‘In this heat?’ Mother said.

‘It’s not too bad. Anyway, it’ll be cooler by the river.’

Elinor followed him into the hall. ‘Do you mind if I come?’

‘It’s a long way.’

‘Toby, I walk all over London.’

‘Don’t let Rachel hear you say that. Rep-u-tation!

They arranged to meet on the terrace. Soon Elinor was following her brother across the meadow, feeling the silken caress of long grasses against her bare arms and the occasional cool shock of cuckoo spit.

‘You know this chap you were talking about last night …?’

‘Oh, don’t you start.’

‘I was only asking.’

‘I only mentioned him because I’m sick of being teased. I just wanted to get Tim off my back. Instead of which, I got Mother on to it.’

‘And Rachel.’

‘She’s worse than Mother.’

‘She’s jealous, that’s all. She settled down a bit too early and … Well, she didn’t exactly get a bargain, did she?’

‘You don’t like Tim, do you?’

‘He’s harmless. I just don’t think she’s very happy.’ He turned to face her. ‘You won’t make that mistake, will you?’

‘Marrying Tim? Shouldn’t think so.’

‘No-o. Settling down too early.’

‘I don’t intend to “settle down” at all.’

She hoped that was the end of the subject, but a minute later Toby said, ‘All the same, there has to be a reason you mentioned him — I mean, him, rather than somebody else.’

‘He’s perfectly obnoxious, that’s why. He was just the first person who came to mind.’

Once they reached the river path, there was some shade at last, though the flashing of sunlight through the leaves and branches was oddly disorientating, and more than once she tripped over a root or jarred herself stepping on air.

‘Be easier coming back,’ Toby said. ‘We won’t have the sun in our eyes.’

She didn’t want to go on talking. She was content to let images rise and fall in her mind: her lodgings in London, the Antiques Room at the Slade, the friends she was starting to make, the first few spindly shoots of independence, though it all seemed a little unreal here, in this thick heat, with dusty leaves grazing the side of her face and swarms of insects making a constant humming in the green shade.

She was walking along, hardly aware of her surroundings, when a sudden fierce buzzing broke into her trance. Toby caught her arm. Bluebottles, gleaming sapphire and emerald, were glued to a heap of droppings in the centre of the path. A few stragglers zoomed drunkenly towards her, fastening on her eyes and lips. She spat, batting them away.

‘Here, this way,’ Toby said. He was holding a branch for her so she could edge past the seething mass.

‘Fox?’ she asked, meaning the droppings.

‘Badger, I think. There’s a sett up there.’

She peered through the trees, but couldn’t see it.

‘Do you remember we had a den here once?’ he said.

She remembered the den: a small, dark, smelly place under some rhododendron bushes. Tiny black insects crawled over your skin and fell into your hair. ‘I don’t think it was here.’

‘It was. You could just hear the weir.’

She listened, and sure enough, between the trees, barely audible, came the sound of rushing water.

‘You’re right, I remember now. I thought it was a bit further on.’

She thought he might want to go there, he lingered so long, but then he turned and walked on.

The river was flowing faster now, picking up leaves and twigs and tiny, struggling insects and whirling them away, and the trees were beginning to thin out. More and more light reached the path until, at last, they came out into an open field that sloped gently down towards the weir. A disused mill — the target of their walk — stood at the water’s edge, though it was many years since its wheel had turned.

This had been the forbidden place of their childhood. They were not to go in there, Mother would say. The floorboards were rotten, the ceilings liable to collapse at any minute …

‘And don’t go near the water,’ she’d call after them, in a last desperate attempt to keep them safe, as they walked away from her down the drive. ‘We won’t,’ they’d chorus. ‘Promise,’ Toby would add, for good measure, and then they would glance sideways at each other, red-faced from trying not to giggle.

Now, Elinor thought, they probably wouldn’t bother going in, but Toby went straight to the side window, prised the boards apart and hoisted himself over the sill. After a second’s hesitation Elinor followed.

Blindness, after the blaze of sunlight. Then, gradually, things became clear: old beams, cobwebs, tracks of children’s footprints on the dusty floor. Their own footprints? No, of course not, couldn’t be, not after all these years. Other children came here now. She put her foot next to one of the prints, marvelling at the difference in size. Toby, meanwhile, was expressing amazement at having to duck to avoid the beams.

Because this place had been the scene of so many forbidden adventures, an air of excitement still clung to it, in spite of the dingy surroundings. She went across to the window and peered out through a hole in the wall. ‘I wonder what it was like to work here.’

Toby came across and stood beside her. ‘Pretty good hell, I should think. Noise and dust.’

He was right of course; when the wheel turned the whole place must have shook. She turned to him. ‘What do you think —?’

He grabbed her arms and pulled her towards him. Crushed against his chest, hardly able to breathe, she laughed and struggled, taking this for the start of some childish game, but then his lips fastened on to hers with a groping hunger that shocked her into stillness. His tongue thrust between her lips, a strong, muscular presence. She felt his chin rough against her cheek, the breadth of his chest and shoulders, not that round, androgynous, childish softness that had sometimes made them seem like two halves of a single person. She started to struggle again, really struggle, but his hand came up and cupped her breast and she felt herself softening, flowing towards him, as if something hard and impacted in the pit of her stomach had begun to melt.

And then, abruptly, he pushed her away.

‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Sorry, sorry …’

She couldn’t speak. How was it possible that anybody, in a single moment, could stumble into a chasm so deep there was no getting out of it?

‘Look, you go back,’ he said. ‘I’ll come home later.’

Automatically, she turned to go, but then remembered the river and turned back.

‘No, go on, I’ll be all right,’ he said.

‘They’ll wonder what’s happened if I show up on my own.’

‘Say you felt ill.’

‘And you went on and left me? Don’t think so. No, come on, we’ve got to go back together.’

He nodded, surrendering the decision to her, and that shocked her almost more than the kiss. He was two years older, and a boy. He had always led.

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