I have always loved reading novels by Pat Barker since I was captivated by the Regeneration trilogy in the 1990s. Since then I’ve read all of her latest books, including earlier this year Noonday, the final book in a trilogy that started with Life Class in 2007 and Toby’s Room in 2012. The problem with reading each book as it came out, is that by the time the next one was published, I’d forgotten where the story left off. But Noonday stands on its own as a fantastic book.
It picks up the story of Elinor, Paul and Kit who first meet in Life Class at the Slade School of Fine Art before the First World War. In the hot English summer of 1940 Elinor returns home to her dying mother and as she sits at her bedside German planes overhead mark the start of The Blitz on London. As the heat outside intensifies, the stuffy atmosphere in her childhood home is the backdrop to Elinor’s final reckoning with her mother, her reliving of childhood memories of her brother Toby (killed in the First World War), and her attempts to help the young evacuee boy billeted at her mother’s house, who is desperate to return home to the East End.
After her mother’s death, Elinor’s marriage to Paul unravels. Being an air raid warden in the Blitz seeing so many die every night changes him into someone who lives for each day only, with little thought to the consequences of his actions. Meanwhile Kit, with whom Elinor was once romantically entangled, is part of her and Paul’s life again, as he and Elinor drive ambulances together. Surrounded by chaos, inflicted every night by the bombs and in her life in general, Elinor calmly decides what she wants from her future as the story builds to its dramatic conclusion. It’s the end of a fantastic trilogy of characters that you won’t want to leave behind.