Day 1186: Toby’s Room

Cover for Toby's RoomI know I’ve talked about this before, but I find it interesting to see what the blurb writer finds to comment about a book versus the book itself. In the case of Toby’s Room, the blurb says something about a family torn apart by war. Well, World War I begins well into the novel, and the family is fairly well torn apart already.

The novel begins in 1912 when, in a weekend break from Slade, where Elinor is an art student, her relationship with her older brother Toby undergoes a shocking change. She and Toby have always been close, but they have difficulty closing the gap after this incident.

Later, shortly after the war begins, the family receives a telegram stating that Toby is missing, presumed dead. Elinor feels there is something not right about the letters she receives from his commanding officer and the chaplain. Letters to her friend Kip, who served with Toby, receive no answer. Elinor asks her friend Paul, who is home wounded, to help her find out what happened.

That makes the book sound like a mystery, but it isn’t. It is more about Elinor’s unresolved feelings for her brother, and latterly about the horrors of war.

Although Toby’s Room is a sequel to Barker’s Life Studies, and I have not read the first book, I felt myself immersed in this fully realized world. This is another situation, like with The Quality of Mercy, where I was reading the novel for my Walter Scott prize project and chose not to read the first one. Unlike The Quality of Mercy, though, I don’t think my not having read the first book affected my appreciation of the second. Although I do wish the Walter Scott prize judges would stop putting sequels on their short list, I enjoyed Toby’s Room. It examines serious issues while still capturing our attention.

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The Quality of Mercy

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6 thoughts on “Day 1186: Toby’s Room

  1. Davida Chazan March 11, 2018 / 12:58 am

    Yes, putting sequels on these lists can be a problem. Nice review, thanks!

  2. Helen March 13, 2018 / 3:50 pm

    I’ve added your link to my Walter Scott Prize page. I wish they wouldn’t include so many sequels too! I’ve been putting off reading this one as I can’t decide whether to start with the first book.

    • whatmeread March 13, 2018 / 4:42 pm

      The original book for this one might have been good to ready. I may actually go back and read it sometime. Some of the others I’ve had no desire to read, especially after reading the ones that were nominated.

      • whatmeread March 18, 2018 / 11:49 am

        Oops, I meant good to read.

  3. jazzfeathers March 18, 2018 / 3:12 am

    It does sound like a mystery, which is what intrigues me the most. But then, I’m interested to novels abotu WWI too and I dins that just as intriguing.

    • whatmeread March 18, 2018 / 11:50 am

      Yes, it’s not really a mystery in that there is no focus on an investigation.

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