Biography of Pat Barker

Pat Barker is a renowned British author whose writing explores the themes of memory, trauma, and recovery. Her early novels focus primarily on the lives of working-class women in Northern England. Meanwhile, her most famous work is the Regeneration trilogy, which centers on World War I and its lingering effects on British society.

Like many of her characters, Barker was born into a British working-class family. Due to her mother’s young age, she was raised primarily by her grandparents. Her grandfather, a World War I veteran, sparked her interest in stories about war and survival. Barker went on to study international history at the London School of Economics and then dedicated the early years of her career to teaching history and politics. Though she has always been an avid reader, Pat Barker did not begin writing fiction until her mid-twenties. Fortunately, she found a mentor in Angela Carter, a celebrated British author. With Carter's guidance and support, Barker wrote her first novel, Union Street, which was published in 1982.

A collection of inter-related vignettes about the effects of poverty and violence on working-class women, Union Street launched Barker’s career. The novel paved the way for her subsequent novels Blow Your House Down and The Century’s Daughter, in which Barker continues to explore the difficult and complex lives of women in England. In 1991, Pat Barker's World War I novel Regeneration shattered the public’s image of her as an author who only wrote about "women's issues." She garnered even more critical acclaim with The Eye in the Door, the sequel to Regeneration, which won the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1993. Two years later, The Ghost Road, the final book in the Regeneration trilogy, received the prestigious Booker prize. Regeneration, which is now required reading for an A-Level certificate in English, is widely considered to be one of the best British war novels ever written.

In 2000, Pat Barker became a Commander in the Order of the British Empire for her significant literary achievements. Barker returned to the topic of war in 2003 with Double Vision and to World War I specifically in 2007 and again in 2012 with Life Class and Toby’s Room. Today, she continues to write about memory, survival, and healing at her home in Durham.  

Study Guides on Works by Pat Barker

Pat Barker penned Regeneration in 1991. The novel depicts the effects of World War I on the British officers and soldiers who are recovering at the Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland. Set in 1917 and 1918, in the final years of the brutal...