Pat Barker is one of my favorite authors. She writes of characters affected by war and its aftermath. Her Regeneration Trilogy deals with WW1, shell shock and psychological scars in the wake of the war. The first two books of her second trilogy were "Life Class" and the brilliant "Toby's Room," which I reviewed earlier. "Noonday" is the final installment.
The action in this book largely takes place in London during the 1940 blitz, though it opens in the Brooke family's country home. The main characters have all been met in the earlier books. Elinor's and Toby's mother lies dying, with her family and a young war evacuee waiting for the end. The family dynamics and stress are entwined with past memories. As in the previous books, war is a catalyst for the art of Elinor, her now husband, Paul Tarrant, and the third member of the love triangle, Kit Neville who had been horribly maimed in the First World War. Having met 30 years before at the Slade School for art, these three are now middle aged and facing another devastating and traumatizing war.
After the mother's death, the action moves to London where Elinor is a night ambulance driver and Paul and Kit are working on rescue squads, extricating people from burning and bombed buildings. The description of war time London is the best part of the book. Inevitably with daily air-raids the dropping of V-1 and V-2 bombs, Elinor's and Paul's home is hit. Paul muses that it was: "...nothing like the fear he'd experienced in the trenches; though in one way it was worse: he was experiencing this fear in the safety of his own home, and that meant nowhere was safe."
This book is not as well-presented as the first two volumes of the trilogy. However I became fond of these characters and wanted to know how their lives unfolded. There are places in the book that are disjointed, and an interesting character named Bertha Mason, a medium, who may or may not be a charlatan makes an appearance. But, it seems she was just thrown into the story and never takes hold. There is also some little mystery involving the boy evacuee who ran away from the country home, but his story is not well developed. At any rate, I still enjoyed Barker's fine writing and descriptions. The book really should be read as a third installment; I don't feel it would stand alone well. Barker's main characters deserve the reader to know their background history. I highly recommend, "Life Class" and especially, "Toby's Room."