what i'm reading: siegfried sassoon, pat barker, roddy doyle

I finally finished the Siegfried Sassoon trilogy. It took me forever, but then, with three books, and nonfiction, plus reading some other books in between, it's bound to take a while. My reading alternates between fiction and nonfiction, because I love and need both, but I read nonfiction very slowly.

These books were very good, but more for someone already interested in the first World War, British pre-war society, and in war protest in general. The segments on fox-hunting and cricket assumed a fair amount of knowledge, and were full of slang, so were far too technical for me to understand. The parts on trench warfare were the same. I can't say I got a lot of out of those portions, but I continued reading, because the author's descriptions of his mental state and feelings were so compelling.

In general, I'd recommend Pat Barker's wonderful "Regeneration Trilogy" - Regeneration, The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road - as a more accessible and compelling look at this history. But I'm glad I went back to read the material Barker used as a jumping-off point. Especially since the beautiful hard-cover, boxed edition was part of such a (typically) thoughtful birthday gift.

I've just started Roddy Doyle's Paula Spencer, the follow-up to his excellent The Woman Who Walked Into Doors. I'm sure I'll fly through it, and unless it's a great departure for Doyle, I'll love it.

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors looks at domestic violence and abusive relationships - and mid-life, and alcholism, and just life - from a woman's (the victim/survivor's) point of view. It's told in the first-person by a female narrator, and written by a man. Having recently seen "Volver," I am reminded that Roddy Doyle and Pedro Almodóvar are two artists who disprove any notions that men can't understand women. Maybe most don't, but then, maybe most people don't understand people.

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