Durham Book Group: Writing the First World War

October’s reading choice was Pat Barker’s ‘Regeneration’, the first of a trilogy of First World War novels in which she fictionalises an account of army officer and poet Siegfried Sassoon’s treatment at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh, his historic meeting with fellow soldier and poet Wilfred Owen and the support he provides Owen in honing his war poems, in particular ‘Dulce et Decorum Est.’

‘Regeneration’ is an anti-war novel with complex themes and characters and Barker’s novel was rightly nominated for the Booker Prize following its publication in 1991. We read the book as part of Durham Book Festival’s Big Read, with free copies available across the city.

Durham Book Festival held a fabulous event in the nave of Durham Cathedral, ‘Writing the First World War’, during which Pat Barker and Michael Morpurgo respectively discussed their novels  ‘Regeneration’ and ‘War Horse’.

The event was well attended and well hosted and facilitated by Caroline Beck, with the two authors discussing their novels and reading extracts to the audience. Interestingly, neither book had good sales figures following publication and it was only in 1997, when ‘Regeneration’ was made into a film, that the book experienced a popular resurgence and increase in book sales, its very own regeneration, if you like.

Michael Morpurgo made the audience laugh as he introduced  ‘War Horse’ as a novel he was heartily sick of talking about; unpopular and with low book sales when it came out, it also experienced a regeneration when it was eventually chosen as a screenplay for film and play, Morpurgo quipping that he’d like for a change, to discuss other of his works.

We meet again on Monday 14 November to discuss Jessie Burton’s second novel ‘The Muse’.

See you all on Monday and happy reading!