Double Vision by Pat Barker - review by Miranda France

Miranda France

Darkness Falls

Double Vision

By

Hamish Hamilton 307pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

IN HER NEW novel, Pat Barker takes as inspiration the late paintings of Francisco Goya. Perhaps the greatest of eighteenth-century artists, Goya explored human brutality in paintings such as The Third ofMay 1808, which depicted Spanish peasants being shot by a French execution squad. Viewers of that painting are invited to identify both with the lullers and the lulled. As he neared the end of his life, deaf and increasingly frightened, Goya produced the 'black' paintings in which rationality seems to have been entirely conquered by nightmarish horrors.

In Double Vision the paintings have great meaning for Kate Frobisher because her husband, a war photographer recently shot dead in Afghanistan, had been on a similar mission to show the brutalising effects of war. Now Stephen, the reporter he worked with, has come to live near Kate's house in the North of England, while he writes a book about the problems of representing war. Kate, meanwhile, is working on a fifteen-foot sculpture of the risen Christ, for the local church. Stephen's psychiatrist brother and his wife, unhappily married, live up the road. Their son is looked after by Justine, a buxom au pair. At the centre of this group of characters is

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