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Double Vision    by Pat Barker order for
Double Vision
by Pat Barker
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

The novel is set a couple of years after 9/11. Stephen Sharkey, an English war correspondent in Afghanistan, befriended photographer Ben Frobisher there. As the story opens, Stephen's assignment in Afghanistan is over, as is his marriage. Ben has died, leaving behind his wife Kate, who resides in the English countryside. Stephen retreats to his brother's home in the same locale, in an attempt to 'move on' from his broken marriage and to write a book that questions the role of war reporters in the media.

Stephen pays Kate a visit soon after his arrival. He also wants to assess Ben's photographs for possible inclusion in his book. Recovering from a car accident, Kate has employed a gardener, Peter, to assist her with a major sculpting project. This cast of characters is rounded out by nineteen-year-old Justine, the vicar's daughter and au pair to Stephen's nephew. Stephen becomes involved in a relationship with Justine. He also keeps in touch with Kate and is troubled by Peter - his instincts label Peter as sinister and dangerous. This all combines into a tale of how war, violence, and desire shape people's lives.

Pat Barker won the Booker Prize for The Regeneration Trilogy, which led me to expect a great deal from this novel. Though I found the characters interesting and enjoyed the mystery, I was disappointed by the laborious pace and by convoluted writing, as in this wry description of Kate's sculpting project of a naked Christ - 'A lively faith in the Incarnation often goes with a marked disinclination to have the anatomical consequences staring one in the face.' While I found aspects of Double Vision compelling, its at times tiresome prose and a trite, unfocused ending made for a less than satisfying read.

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