In the midst of WWI, decorated officer / poet Siegfried Sassoon publishes a statement against the war. Because he is rich, he is sent to Craiglockhart to be treated by Dr. Rivers for neurasthenia instead of being court martialed. All of this really happened. So begins Regeneration, which examines the experiences of Sassoon and other patients at Craiglockhart and their relationships with Dr. Rivers.
This book is tragic, particularly when one thinks about how these dreadful things actually did happen. BUT IT IS SO GOOD. There was not one character I disliked, except for perhaps Robert Graves, who is sort of a jerk. But it is very hard to dislike anyone - even when they are being complete jerks and hate everyone - when they wake up screaming from terrible nightmares and have complete and utter breakdowns because what they've experienced is awful and incomprehensible. IT IS SO HEARTBREAKING. And yes, likeable characters are important to me, so shut up.
There's a lot of subject matter crammed into a relatively short book, but its handled in a natural, unobtrusive way - shell shock in the infantry versus the RAF, the opportunities suddenly available to women, psychoanalysis, the various (and sometimes harrowing) methods for treating shell shock, the inability of civilians to comprehend basically anything, the rage soldiers felt towards the civilian population, the dismantling of an entire upbringing of suppressed emotions, and, of course, the ever present class system. Craiglockhart treats officers, who mostly come from upper middle and upper class backgrounds. William Prior has risen into the officer class: he resents the upper class, but he doesn't quite fit in with the working class. Curiously, he arrives at Craiglockhart mute, which Dr. Rivers tells him is an affliction more common amongst enlisted soldiers; officers typically stammer. Also, he is kind of a jerk and a total sex fiend who may or may not be bisexual. Obviously, I loved him.
Finally, the handsomeness of Siegfried Sassoon is mentioned and ... okay. I know this is random but in Mighty Ducks 2, this Texan cowboy (who is basically the human version of Woody from Toy Story) joins the hockey team. He has an appalling southern accent and during a game, he actually LASSOES another player because he must fulfill every possible stereotype about Texas and cowboys even though this an ice hockey movie and not a Pace salsa commercial. My point is...Siegfried Sassoon looks just like the ice skating cowboy aka Woody, which makes Robert Graves Buzz Lightyear. I can't wait until I learn to paste photos here so I can prove my theory.
This review is all over the place so I conclude by urging you to read this book. FIN.