Toby's Room

Toby's Room

Book - 2012
Average Rating:
Rate this:

Toby and Elinor, brother and sister, closest friends and confidants, are sharers of a dark secret, carried from the sweltering summer of 1912 into the battlefields of France and wartime London in 1917.

Then, 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 art student Kit Neville, recently returned from the war with his face destroyed, was there in the fox-hole when Toby met his fate, but he is in no mood to talk. Enlisting the help of former lover Paul Tarrant, Elinor determines to uncover the truth. Only then will she be able finally to close the door to Toby's room.

Moving from the Slade School of Art before the First World War to Queen Mary's Hospital, where surgery and art intersect in the attempt to rebuild the shattered faces of the wounded, Toby's Room is a riveting drama of identity and damage, of intimacy and loss. It is Pat Barker's most powerful novel yet.

Publisher: London : Penguin Group, 2012.
ISBN: 9780241144572
Branch Call Number: FIC Barke
Characteristics: 263 pages


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Oct 11, 2015

This is an excellent book. It is not about the lives of the characters but the way in which Barker uses their lives to re-create the zeitgeist of the time. The artists of the Slade School of Art are loosely based on Nash, Carrington and other painters and Gillies and Tonk were real people engaged in reconstructing the faces of wounded soldiers. Barker provides a link to the archives where Tonk's pastels can been seen. The debate about the extent to which paintings (and by extension, photographs) of the horrors of war should be shown is ongoing.

Aug 10, 2013

*** 1/2 stars. ?Toby?s Room? is a sequel to "Life Class" and continues the story of 3 students of the Slade School of Fine Art in London. When the war begins, both Paul Tarrant and Kit Neville serve as volunteers with the Belgian Red Cross. Their friend Elinor Brooke, however, chooses to disregard it. Like Virginia Woolf (who makes a cameo appearance), Elinor thinks that since women are outside the political process the war doesn?t concern her, and she imposes a taboo on herself: the war is not to be acknowledged, in either her art or her life. But her brother, Toby, a doctor, becomes a medical officer at the front and WWI is no longer outside Elinor's life. As stated in the previous review, Ms. Barker has a style that makes you believe she is a contemporary of her characters. Recommend.

Jan 06, 2013

history part fascinating; story line predictable.

MemosInStilettos Nov 26, 2012

I didn't enjoy the narrative of this book, although I found the history of the work at Queens riveting and worth the task of completing the book!

Oct 18, 2012

Barker?s Life Class characters Elinor Brooke and Paul Tarrant find their paths crossing again when Paul returns to London after an injury and becomes a ?war painter,? a government endeavor to capture images of WW I. But, Elinor seeks him out not for himself but for what he can help her find out about her brother Toby, also lost in the war when serving as a medical officer with a fellow Slade student Kit Neville who becomes one of his stretcher bearers. Kit seems to know something about Toby?s death. Now horribly disfigured himself, will he tell Elinor what she wants to know?

Elinor?s family, particularly her close relationship with Toby, drives the plot of this book. Elinor ambivalence and keeping her distance from the war is challenged. Whether staying home or being in the war, lives will never be what they were. We see Elinor mature as she pursues answers from questions that arise from a note to her found in her brother?s returned jacket pocket.

Barker has such talent. It?s a pleasure reading her fiction, enjoying some of the real Bloomsbury artists who appear and learning about some of the medical men who tried to give new faces to horribly disfigured soldiers. Highly recommended.

hgeng63 Oct 11, 2012

Life Class was at least lively; this one is sleepy, though relatively easy to read. The revelation is anticlimactic.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at OPL

To Top