Still Haunted by the Ghosts of Battle; DOUBLE VISION by Pat Barker (Hamish Hamilton, [Pounds Sterling]16.99)

Article excerpt

Byline: KATE ADIE

DOES everyone carry their war with them? In the Northumbrian countryside, an owl-hooting, forest and fern landscape, a reporter retreats from the war reporting beat to write a book. His former colleague's widow, a sculptor, lives nearby: they share the consequences of violence in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

In a tale which thrives on a fair whiff of violence, and which suggests that behind most doors in a small village, they're at it like rabbits, Pat Barker conveys a sense of lurking menace.

The strange young man who undertakes casual work around the parish hints of a criminal past; the vicar engages in a surreptitious affair; the sculptor in her remote farmhouse studio hacks at a huge carving of Christ which glowers and broods. The story shifts eventually to the reporter's involvement with the vicar's daughter, 20 years his junior.

Even that relationship is shot through with grim incident - a highly vicious burglary and a nasty moment of near-drowning. Written carefully and sparingly, it's a story which begs to connect the wider world of warfare with the intimate lives of people far from a war zone. There is mention of death in Afghanistan, death at the Twin Towers, rape and murder in Bosnia, and a sobering vignette of the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague.

The suggestion seems to be that if you have yourself witnessed this kind of terrible event, it returns and haunts. …

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