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In Noonday, Pat Barker - the Man Booker-winning author of the definitive WWI trilogy, Regeneration - turns for the first time to WWII.

London, the Blitz, autumn 1940. As the bombs fall on the blacked-out city, ambulance driver Elinor Brooke races from bomb sites to hospitals trying to save the lives of injured survivors, working alongside former friend Kit Neville, while her husband Paul works as an air-raid warden. Once fellow students at the Slade School of Fine Art, before the First World War destroyed the hopes of their generation, they now find themselves caught in another war, this time at home. As the bombing intensifies, the constant risk of death makes all three of them reach out for quick consolation. Old loves and obsessions re-surface until Elinor is brought face to face with an almost impossible choice.

Completing the story of Elinor Brooke, Paul Tarrant and Kit Neville, begun with Life Class and continued with Toby's Room, Noonday is both a stand-alone novel and the climax of a trilogy. Writing about the Second World War for the first time, Pat Barker brings the besieged and haunted city of London into electrifying life in her most powerful novel since the Regeneration trilogy.

261 pages, Hardcover

First published July 27, 2015

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About the author

Pat Barker

37 books2,109 followers
Pat Barker, CBE, FRSL was born in Thornaby-on-Tees in 1943. She was educated at the London School of Economics and has been a teacher of history and politics.

Her books include the highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy Regeneration; The Eye in the Door, winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize; and The Ghost Road, winner of the Booker Prize; as well as seven other novels. She's married and lives in Durham, England.

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506 (27%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 292 reviews
Profile Image for Paul.
1,217 reviews1,963 followers
August 14, 2020
This is the last part of Barker’s second First World War trilogy. For this one she moves the story to the Second World War and the blitz. The three main characters from the first two books are still the focus of this one. Paul Tarrant and Elinor Brooke are now married; Kit Neville has been married and is now divorced. The setting is London in the autumn of 1940 during the blitz. Elinor and Kit are volunteer ambulance drivers and Paul is an air-raid warden.
Barker captures the terror and trauma of the blitz, scrambling through collapsed buildings to find survivors and the effect it all has on those involved. Barker also uses a few literary devices and ideas as well. One of the minor characters is a medium and spiritualist who Barker names Bertha Mason (Rochester’s first wife in Jane Eyre) and she lives in an attic!
Paul Tarrant’s experiences mirror those of Graham Greene’s. Paul’s lover Sandra is very similar to Dorothy (Greene’s lover) and they meet in exactly the same way. Tarrent is an ARP warden in the same place Greene was and he reacts in the same way when his house is destroyed by a bomb. Elinor has elements of Elizabeth Bowen and Rose Macaulay. One of Elinor’s nights on duty exactly mirrors one that Macaulay describes. Sometimes I felt the historical detail overwhelmed the plot a little.
This novel is more panorama than portrait and the City of London takes a primary role. It almost feels like the city is the main character:
“London has become ‘merely a settlement on a river, lit by guttering candles after dark”
“sunshine streaming through a gap in the terrace”
“a clump of bright red flowers growing out of sagging gutter”
“a great pool of forget-me-nots caught in the hollow of a wall”
“On the first floor, a green brocade armchair cocked one elegant cabriole leg over the abyss. There was a bathroom with a washbasin and toilet, looking somehow vulnerable, touching even, like a fleeting, accidental glimpse of somebody’s backside. You wanted to cover it up, restore its dignity, but there was no way of doing that.”
There are startling moments, Elinor finds herself in a darkened street when suddenly she is faced with a group of dray horses charging towards her terrified with manes on fire. The real power in the novel are the descriptions of the blitz and those volunteers trying to rescue the trapped, treat the wounded and their sheer bravery. The plot moves between the three characters almost in the background. It makes for a good ending to the trilogy and there are a couple of interesting twists. Not as good as her first trilogy, but worth reading.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,046 followers
December 17, 2016
I picked this one up on the basis that Barker is a Booker Prize-winning author. I probably also had a subconscious disposition toward the book based on its description, as I've read a couple of other books with a similar setting not so long in the past - and enjoyed them very much.

It's a slice-of-life, during the London Blitz.

Due to the war, artist Elinor is now volunteering as an ambulance driver. She's not seeing much of her husband, Paul, these days, who's busy with his own war-effort-related activities. Instead, she's seeing a lot more of their long-time friend, Neville, who's also involved in search-and-rescue, getting survivors out of bomb-raddled ruins. Neville's carried a torch for Elinor for years, and in this time of death and chaos, the normal boundaries seem like they're crumbling.

Meanwhile, Paul is weltering in guilt. He believes that a child is dead due to a decision he made. When a professional psychic says that she sees the ghost of a boy hovering around him, he's inclined to give her words weight, skeptic though he might usually be.

Barker is undeniably a good writer. Her characters are complex and well-drawn. However, the book as a whole feels like it's floundering as much as its characters are. While it eventually draws itself together to say a bit of something about relationships, grief, and social bonds, it's very, very loose-knit and lacking tension on the way to getting there. For the bulk of the book, it doesn't feel like it has a plot at all. In addition, some of the more dramatic events of the book either aren't used particularly well, or feel irrelevant and out of place: an early mention of past incest feels like a non-sequitur, the ghost/psychic subplot is interesting, but almost buried, a rape that's just a bit odd, in context, and a too-conveniently-timed death...

For those looking for fictional treatments of the situation and time period, I'd recommend Sarah Waters' Night Watch, and Connie Willis' Blackout. (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...)

Many thanks to Doubleday and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinion is solely my own.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,780 reviews14.2k followers
May 4, 2016
The last in a trilogy but is able to be read as a stand alone. I did read the first, Life Class many years ago but it in that book that I first became acquainted with Kit, Eleanor and Paul, sparing artists. Now as London is being bombarded, Eleanor and Kit, though their relationship is strained, are working together as ambulance drivers. Paul and Eleanor have been married for several years and now Paul is working as an air raid warden.

Barker has a very literate style of writing and she is able to portray people at their worst and their best. The London Blitz, this very terrible time is shown through the eyes of these characters working at ground level. The constant bombing, the deaths, shelters, rationing, buildings there one minute, gone the next. The stoicism of the people, the courage of the workers trying to help. Such a visual depiction, Barker is able to render.

Also about the relationship between the three characters, how the war changes this and how they themselves change. A wonderful mix of history and the personal. Love that she does not overdramatize either. It ends not happily, but on a note of hope.

Love how this author writes, and enjoyed this story.

Profile Image for Emma.
986 reviews1,000 followers
July 24, 2015
3.5 Stars

Ok this is going to be a strange review. Let me first say that I didn't really like the book. But 3.5 stars you say? Surely that means you liked it at least a bit?? And therein lies the contradiction.

As always, Pat Barker puts forward excellent depictions of real people. So real, in fact, that you feel like they're those people you know through tv, or Facebook, or friends- you know the ones you hear lots about and maybe talk lots about, but never really speak to directy? So real that their flaws are just as visible as their virtues. So real that when you see one of them have a blatant affair while his wife is in the country you think 'really, it's wartime and people are dying and instead of holding your loved ones close you decide to have sex with some random??'. The judgement kicks in because it's not just a story, it's people just like you. People who might not be someone you'd be interested in knowing but that spend their days and nights saving people from the destruction of bombs dropped from the sky. Admiration and aversion all at once. But their experience is not yours and you don't know what kind of person you'd be in that same situation so maybe you have to think again about how you see them. Maybe that's not too comfortable.

So maybe you're not supposed to like this book. Maybe it might teach you something instead.

My very sincere thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Books for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,272 reviews49 followers
September 30, 2016
An odd mixture. Pat Barker's books are always interesting and populated by memorable characters, but I couldn't help finding this one a little disappointing, at least compared to the first two parts of this trilogy. This one takes the characters from Life Class and Toby's Room and moves them forward to their middle age in the London blitz. Much of the writing, particularly the descriptions of the bombing and its aftermath is very powerful, but I felt the book was a little let down by a subplot involving a "spuggie" (Geordie slang for a holder of seances) that was never entirely resolved, at least from a rationalist perspective. Still worth reading, but not quite her best work.
Profile Image for Roger Brunyate.
946 reviews651 followers
June 11, 2016
These Pesky Sequels!

I have an ambivalent relationship with the books of Pat Barker. I found Regeneration , the opening novel of her first WW1 trilogy, to be absolutely brilliant. I was disappointed by the second volume in the series, though found the standard at least partially regained in the third. She revisited WW1 in Life Class , which I did not especially like, although there was interest in the fact that the three major characters—Paul Tarrant, Kit Neville, and Elinor Brooke, the woman they both love—are all art students at London's celebrated Slade School when war breaks out. However, I found Toby's Room , its sequel, to be far stronger—almost as good as Regeneration and for much the same reasons. Now I discover that these two have also been extended into a trilogy. Though it is an odd one, as Noonday jumps the action forward to WW2, when the same three artists now well established in their careers. It makes me wonder if this was at the publisher's urging or part of Barker's original plan?

Does it work? No, not for me. It is shapeless and disjunct, with one foot in the present and the other in the past. Yet I do have to recognize that the scenes in the London Blitz are among the best I have ever read, rivaling those in Sarah Waters' The Night Watch or Kate Atkinson's Life After Life . I get the feeling that there would have been a very good novel indeed in here, if only Barker had given up the trilogy idea and written this one as a standalone with new characters. For you need to think that, apart from random forces such the the fall of bombs or collapse of buildings in the Blitz, the trajectory of the characters' lives is determined by who they are in themselves. I do not want to be told that what happens to them as mature adults is really the product of their experiences as teenagers, unless the author can recreate those experiences in the present volume as though we were discovering them for the first time; just referencing them by something like "She thought back to that summer afternoon in the lane when…" does not cut it. My memory is not the best these days, but it is more than a matter of remembering a book I read two years ago; the quarter-century time lapse is also a problem; these three individuals are no longer the same people. So in addition to the questions that come up whenever Barker looks back to the first war—is this a new revelation, or merely a reminder of the story so far?—I increasingly found myself asking another: does it really matter?

Try as I might, I simply can see no reason to continue with the same characters. It is not even that the fact of their being artists is really important. Paul still paints, Elinor is in temporary hiatus, and Kit has found fame as a critic. But these are just jobs: nowhere do we see the artist's vision at work, nowhere do we experience the process of turning experience into art that we got with the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen in Regeneration. So, Ms. Barker, why not start again with new characters? Give them back stories by all means, but reveal these to us as new events, not warmed-up leftovers. Use your remarkable ability to conjure the atmosphere of the Blitz, the children separated from their parents, and the heroic work of the ambulance and rescue crews. By all means revisit the themes of spiritual unmooring, adultery, and the search for identity that Graham Greene broached in The End of the Affair . Or tackle something new, such as your fascinating connection between spiritualism and espionage, which is no sooner introduced than abandoned. But do these on your own terms; don't saddle yourself with having to end a quarter-century-old story that many readers will have forgotten, and that doesn't matter all that much any more anyway.
Profile Image for Susan.
509 reviews36 followers
June 10, 2022

The indomitable spirit of those brave and resilient Londoners who endured the horrors of the Blitz is well documented.....not only the everyday folk whose homes were bombarded night after night, but also the firemen, anti aircraft gunners, wardens, policemen, ambulance drivers, and so many others who kept as calm as possible, and just carried on.

In some ways, I feel that this book is a tribute to their bravery.....
They have gone down in history as heroes of sorts, and are, quite rightly, looked back on with awe and admiration, but perhaps those times have become a little romanticised, with the intervening years somewhat softening some the harsher realities of those desperate times.....this book is also a reminder of just how desperate those times actually were.....

I knew there were many unspeakably awful incidents, tragic horror stories that played out night after night, but author Pat Barker’s descriptions of the terror, destruction, heartbreaking aftermaths, and bravery of these terrible nights were so vivid, that the enormity of what was happening was brought home to me more than with any other accounts of these times ever have.

This book is the third in an excellent trilogy, continuing the story of the lives of three artists who met just before WWI, but it also works well as a standalone.

Elinor, Paul and Kit have a shared history......in this story, they find themselves in London, still painting, but also ambulance drivers, struggling through the ravaged London streets at the height of the nightly bombing, to evacuate the wounded to hospitals, and struggling with their own personal lives, as the stress of war takes it toll, changing their perspective on their lives, relationships, and what really matters most when life itself becomes so fragile.

An excellent read from a favourite author.......
Profile Image for Kim.
2,152 reviews
January 19, 2023
Setting: London (mostly); 1940.
This is the third book in the 'Life Class' trilogy, which I have been looking forward to reading, even though I finished the second book in 2017!
The setting has moved on from World War One to early in World War Two, the height of the London Blitz. Elinor and Paul are now married and they have a house in London - Paul is a war artist and also an ARP warden whilst Elinor drives ambulances, rescuing people injured by the constant nights of German bombing, where she works alongside Kit Neville - a former compatriot of her brother, Toby, in World War One and who featured in earlier books.
However, the novel starts in the countryside, where Elinor and her sister, Rachel are attending their dying mother - and trying to cope with ongoing family issues and their repercussions. Constantly drawn back to London by duty and to escape these issues, Paul and Elinor find themselves thrown into the chaotic maelstrom resulting from the destruction and injuries caused by the Blitz. Much of the book is moving and disturbing accounts of digging through the rubble of damaged buildings to try to rescue civilians, often unsuccessfully, and the aftermath of streets of houses being instantly obliterated - with the main characters deeply involved, both professionally and often personally, with the outcomes. The author's realistic descriptions made me feel as if I was there and I could almost taste the brick dust as our characters burrowed through the rubble!
A fitting end to the trilogy, with an unexpected and uplifting ending. This was another great series, along with the author's Regeneration trilogy - 9/10.
Profile Image for Lisa.
3,375 reviews429 followers
September 20, 2015
Well, I never thought I’d be saying this about a novel by Pat Barker, but I found Noonday banal. It’s basically a not particularly interesting version of the eternal triangle with the London Blitz as a backdrop, and the ending is trite.

Noonday completes the story of Paul Tarrant, Elinor Brooke and Kit Neville whose story began in Life Class and continued in Toby’s Room, novels which tread the well-worn paths of Ypres and the Somme and the concomitant loss of hope, faith and sometimes a moral compass. These characters are all artists who first met at the Slade School in 1914, but in this novel all three are risking their lives as the Blitz rages – Elinor and Kit as ambulance drivers and Paul as an air-raid warden rescuing people from bombed houses. As you might expect, none of them have time to do much art but Kit (who also has a desk job in the Ministry of Information) spends his time bitching about how he’s been overlooked by (the real-life) Kenneth Clark for commission as a war artist.

To read the rest of my review please visit http://anzlitlovers.com/2015/09/21/no...
Profile Image for Chloe Fowler.
468 reviews7 followers
September 15, 2015
I feel pretty measly giving a Pat Barker novel such a low score. Noonday is just a slither of World War-ry nothing. I can't remember Toby's Room but perhaps neither could Barker. The characters are flat, unappealing and I didn't give two hoots one way or another. It's not a love-triangle either, it's just some bumps in the night. Perhaps the trouble with war novels (or rather, blitz novels) is that in all the whizz of sirens, rubble, ambulances and bombs you can just too easily bury the plot.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,257 reviews58 followers
August 30, 2015
The third book in the series that started with Life Class and Toby's Room, this takes the story of the love triangle that is Elinor, Paul and Kit into middle age and into the horrors of London during the Blitz. Although this is the third book in the series there seems to be enough background provided to make it possible to read this as a standalone book. I really don't think that you would appreciate the depth of story and feeling should you choose to read it in this fashion. The ghosts from the earlier books certainly haunt this one.
While I did enjoy my experience of reading this, there were times when I found aspects of the story-telling grating in the extreme. The story arc involving Bertha Mason (not Mrs Rochester, but a hugely overweight clairvoyant) was fascinating but also deeply irritating at times. These sections seemed fragmented and I found them rather confusing, a distraction from the main story. Despite this the writing covering the experience of the Blitz is brilliantly executed. The terror and confusion is captured perfectly, as well as the near-total dislocation from normal life as the city became unrecognisable.
As you'd expect from this series issues around the artistic world do play a part in this story arc, with some discussion of the role of a war artist, as well as what was considered to be 'proper' subjects for artists of both sexes. Unlike the first two books in the series though, these considerations were very much on the background, a decision that I thought made sense considering the massive and devastating events against which this is set. In many ways, despite being set in the 1940s this is still a novel of the First World War, the continuing impact of the 1914-18 war is what has shaped all of the central characters. All of their actions have to be seen against the trauma of their experiences during WWI, it is fascinating to see the first war through the eyes of characters already shaped by and earlier conflict.
Despite it's flaws this is a book to read, and a worthy and satisfying conclusion to the series; it will be interesting to see if Pat Barker's next novel will also cover issues surrounding conflict now that she has so comprehensively looked at the impact of the First World War.
Profile Image for Stephen Goldenberg.
Author 3 books48 followers
June 26, 2020
Having shown herself to be a brilliant chronicler of the First World War with the Regeneration Trilogy, Pat Barker moves on to the Second World War with the Life Class Trilogy. The three main characters, Elinor, Paul and Kit, are all auxiliary firefighters and their experiences give us a very vivid picture of London during the Blitz. The interplay and intrigue between the characters is strong, although I found the art background somewhat weak.
What comes across very strongly is how tough it was to be part of the generation that survived the First World War in their youth and then experienced the Second World War in their maturer years.
Profile Image for Inkspill.
410 reviews39 followers
November 7, 2021
I’m not sure how to start.

I liked this third instalment but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two – though the unabridged audio version was beautifully read by several narrators including Juliet Stevenson.

I liked the opening with it builds up to a big dramatic punch – her mother reveals she knows what happened between her two children before she dies. This gave the promise that it would be like the previous two, another edge of the seat instalment, instead this thread (like the other build-ups) got lost or fizzled out.

I spent most of my time trying to understand where this novel was going. I liked the set-up, and the new characters, especially Kenny (highlighting how children were adopted by the families during the war). I just kept waiting for the different story threads to gel to the central drive of the novel.

I think the novel was exploring the next phase of Elinore and Paul’s relationship. A couple of decades has passed, they are now married, but the gloss has worn off as each are trying to – I’m not sure what – but their lives are difficult, and it’s one or two years into (I’m guessing with the clues in the text) the second war, World War Two.

From the little I’ve read, life during (decades after) this war is hard. Paul and Elinore and Kit juggling are their lives with creating art, having relationships and volunteering with the emergency services. I got the sense of the horror of this war with the bombings, and when they lost Kenny – and I also wanted to feel the devastation when Elinore’s house is destroyed by a bomb, instead what I was mostly feeling was a disconnection - Elinore’s disconnection to her own life and her life with Paul. I think this third part is really just Elinore’s story, her journey to find herself. This was coming through but it got lost – or I struggled to connect with it – with all the other meandering story threads.
523 reviews15 followers
July 28, 2015
I was really pleased when Lovereading.co.uk asked me to review Pat Barker’s new novel and to devour this when only a few people have had this privilege. So not being able to go on holiday, this was a treat.

I came across Pat Barker in the 90s with the trilogy Regeneration which I enjoyed immensely, but forgot about her books after that.

Noonday is set at the beginning of World War 2, but the effects of World War One are still raw. Here the next generation are off to war; wives loosing husbands to the trenches were now loosing their sons to a war they never thought would happen and certainly not on home ground too.

This book although is stand alone is part of a trilogy in the series of Life Class and Toby’s Room. I would urge readers to read the first two (whilst waiting on Noonday to be published). This did not deter me. I found the characters to be so real and the blitz brought once again to life and researched well (having personally read a great deal around London during the Second World War)

People did not know if there would be a tomorrow so did things that perhaps today we may have a conscious- these were different times.

A thoroughly enjoyable read which I have to say I have just finished as I was immersed in the age and the people Pat Barker has brought to life.

Due for publication 27th August 2015, this will go straight into the top ten, and will be on everyone’s Christmas list (if you can wait that long)

Profile Image for Ali.
1,242 reviews345 followers
October 18, 2015
Elinor Brooke (still using her maiden name professionally) is married to Paul Tarrant, they haven’t had children and as the novel begins Elinor is staying in the country with her sister Rachel, while their mother is dying. Rachel (critical and traditional as ever) and her husband have an evacuee Kenny from London staying with them, although have done little to make him feel welcome. Kenny feels particularly drawn to Paul, the one person who has shown him sympathy, so when during one of Paul’s visits, and following a particularly bad raid over London, Kenny begs him to take him home to find his mother. It seems already, even as early into the war as 1940 people were bringing their children home in large numbers. Paul helps Kenny find his mother, among the bomb damage and chaos of the East End, worrying whether he has done the right thing exposing the boy to such risk.

Full review: https://heavenali.wordpress.com/2015/...
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,233 reviews
January 12, 2017
So. I really really liked Toby's Room. And I was less fond of Life Class. This was at least not a third simul-quel (I was afraid it might be), but instead a fast forward to WWII. I was fairly confused as to which reality is real (the one from Toby's Room or the one from Life Class), but then realized that the main threads are mostly the same it is just the details that differ. And, of course that might have been Barker's point (perspective is everything and our truths are not always the same). She gives enough relevant backstory in Noonday to follow this storyline (or really, further character development and illustration set in the backdrop of burning London) without needing to determine which of the prior perspectives was most accurate.

I do quite like Barker's voice and her observations, but other than her historical descriptions of the setting, I wasn't sure what this book added to the series. It was an interesting side note, but not necessarily a compelling book. The characters don't arc, the story doesn't develop; it is just sort of a post-script to the others.

That said, the one new motif was mothers. It opens with Elinor's mother's death, we have the whole Kenny saga and his need for a mother-reunion (even if her life is easier without him around), we get some more back story about Paul's mother's suicide and mental illness, and Bertha's side bar shows the horrors of abortion. But these don't tie together well and they aren't really ever resolved. Of course, neither is life and Barker is nothing if not real. I guess I would have liked to see at least Paul with some closure (or further self-analysis and discussion), but instead we just get the running motif of complicated mother/child relationships (from both mother and child perspectives).

The WWII descriptions and information was interesting as well. Obviously I know about the London bombings (I've read a bunch of WWII books and spent 4 months living in London), but this was really the first day to day description of ambulance drivers and fire wardens that I have encountered. I know there are tons more and I could go in search of some non-fiction information, but Barker gives a solid nitty-gritty explanation. I really felt the homelessness that Paul and Elinor experience; as well as the surprise that it could happen to them. I mean really, they both work in it and it is happening all around the city but it is still unsettling and a surprise when the main characters' house blows up. I also liked the contrast between the rural calm and the burning city.

Overall Barker does a great job of simple and direct exposition. She makes this reader feel and see some ugly stuff. And she makes it feel real and true. This is a decent read and worthwhile on its own (don't feel like you have to read the trilogy), but of the three Toby's Room is still my favorite and the differences in the details between all three nags at my obsessive/compulsive mind.
Profile Image for Darcy.
20 reviews1 follower
January 1, 2019
‘Noonday’ is the final book in a trilogy by Pat Barker. The earlier books are ‘Life Class’ and ‘Toby’s Room’ and it’s been quite a while since I read them. I have enjoyed all three novels, which cover a time period beginning just before the outbreak of the Great War through to the London blitz of WW2. The story line follows the intertwined lives and loves of three characters, who were all students of the Slade school of art and all studied under the tutelage of Henry Tonks. This alone was enough to have me gripped from the very beginning. Henry Tonks was a remarkable man. He was a surgeon prior to becoming Professor of Fine Art at The Slade and later his drawings assisted in pioneering facial reconstruction surgery during WW1.

The historical facts and setting of ‘Noonday’ appear very authentic. Descriptions of the bombing and the impact of this on daily life in London is graphic and thought provoking. It makes the precariousness of existence seem very real. We’ve probably all seen photos of the devastation, of brave Eastenders searching the rubble for possessions but who thinks about the fire, the grit and dust, the burst water and gas mains? And what actually happened to all the homeless and displaced?

For me, the significant theme running through the books is the shifting nature of our relationships. How it is possible to feel love, hate and disgust, all at once, for a single person. The novel explores this theme through the main character’s (Elinor) relationships with friends, lovers, and relatives. Every relationship she has is ambiguous. I can say no more without divulging spoilers!

Profile Image for Ian.
528 reviews72 followers
April 28, 2016
Thoroughly enjoyable though less focussed on the damage done by war than her previous works - The Regeneration Trilogy and parts 1 & 2 of this The Life Class trilogy. This seemed more centred on petty jealousies and relationships and how they can change within the immediacy and urgency of feelings that wartime - in this case on the home front during World War Two - can bring. The physical damage to Paul Tarrant and Kit Neville was inflicted during World War One as were the emotional scars on each man and on the woman they both love, Elinor Brooke, who lost her brother Toby in The Great War. Though badged as a potentially standalone novel, I think this is much better read as a follow up to Life Class and Toby's Room. The descriptions of London during the Blitz are very good though the work of the home front volunteers - air raid wardens, ambulance drivers, fire watchers et al - is perhaps better depicted in The Night Watch by Sarah Waters.
10 reviews
January 17, 2016
I have a very high opinion of Pat Barker, and really enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy, but I found the final installment a bit patchy, and not up to her usual high standards. The book does have considerable merit and her descriptions of London under the blitz really do bring home the conditions that people had to endure. However there are too many loose ends, and characters whose storylines don't really develop, for example the medium is an interesting character, but her part in the story seems to fizzle out. The book is loosely based on real characters which makes it interesting, but also makes for a rather rambling book. At times it read as if Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth, had been mixed together with Hilary Mantell's Beyond Black to produce a rather unwieldy combination.
Profile Image for Annie.
2,088 reviews107 followers
February 10, 2016
The iconic phrase from London’s Blitz was “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The media of the time gives us one version of life during one of the longest sustained bombing campaigns in history, of Londoners with cheerful grins giving Hitler the double fingers (usually metaphorically, because they are English) or serving up a cup of tea in an air raid shelter. The characters in Noonday, by Pat Barker, are not particularly calm and are not carrying on very well...

Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration.
Profile Image for Anna.
545 reviews8 followers
June 8, 2023
I don't know how to rate this. This book is an excellent novel about the blitz, far more intimate and detailed a portrayal than I've usually found. But Elinor, Paul and Kit are characters it's hard to warm to, even three books in. I felt at the end of the 2nd book they needed to go their own ways but they didn't. I liked Paul and Bertha's stories the most, Elinor and kit's were uncompromising, unflinching depictions, that make for rewarding if not pleasant reading. I guess I'd say the book draws you into the mire of difficult lives in a difficult time and I can appreciate that.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
1,125 reviews12 followers
January 18, 2016
I doubt that I’ve read a novel about the London Blitz that was as vividly written as this (but I must admit I haven't read many). Certain images remained indelibly after I’d finished it – pigeons with fiery wings, brewery horses galloping through the streets with their manes ablaze – and on a human level, the old couple dead in their bed, holding hands, or the child whose floppy corpse is laid out gently on the pavement as if she were a rag doll.

In this third novel of a trilogy, we meet again Elinor, Paul and Kit who were all once students together at the Slade school of art. The first two novels were set in or before World War One, so this moves the action forward to the characters’ middle age. Barker, who made WW1 her own through her marvellous Regeneration trilogy, has said that she was interested to write about how people who fought in that war coped with another only thirty years later. The ‘war to end all wars’ was certainly not that – nor ever could be.

In Noonday, Elinor and Kit are ambulance drivers at night and Paul (now Elinor’s husband) is a warden. Through their experiences, we are exposed to all the terror and destruction of the Blitz. I found the descriptions of London in ruins and the themes that ran through the novel more interesting than the characters themselves. Themes of art, time, the importance (or not) of possessions, the English class system, urban against country, combatant against bureaucrat are all interesting and thought-provoking.

A major theme is what Barker calls the ‘porous membrane that divides the living from the dead.’ This is not only because the living can so instantly become the dead but also because the dead remain in so many ways, through memory and through art.

In this novel, there is also a character (Bertha Mason) who is a medium. Although she is exposed as a fraud, there are some incidents in the novel where she appears to be genuinely ‘inhabited’ by the persona of a soldier who has died. I found this aspect rather disturbing and unnecessary when the theme was well developed in other ways. (I subsequently read in an interview with Barker that she felt the Bertha character took over in the novel and she had to write compulsively about her – I agree, and thought it was to the novel’s detriment.)

I didn’t particularly like the title either although I suppose it represents the way that London blazed as if it were noon (and also perhaps that the characters are at the apogee of their lives.)

But these criticisms aside, it’s an impressive novel that shows us a historical period and makes us recognise again the fears and the strength we find when faced with extreme danger and our own mortality. Despite its flaws, I really liked it.
Profile Image for Brenda.
1,516 reviews67 followers
May 27, 2016
Noonday is mean to be a small slice of life during WWII for people in London. Planes fly overhead, the distant sounds of gunfire can be heard, fires and bombs are normal circumstances. They learn to move on and get through the daily parts of their lives without any additional pomp and circumstance.

Here, our focus is on Elinor and Paul--a couple who are dealing with every day scenarios as well as war-centric ones. While I like the idea behind it, actual execution wasn't something I was tremendously enthusiastic about. My main reason for this is that there's no real plot. There's a lot of meandering side plots which are pretty obvious as such, but nothing that struck me as being the main point. Nothing to tell me why I picked up the book. Maybe about halfway through, it starts to seem like the emphasis is on Elinor and Paul. Their relationship. Which, okay yeah, I get that, but.... so what? What was happening with them both collectively and separately was just kind of dull. Then when it finally gets interesting, it is told so plainly that it doesn't feel like any sort of climax. I was just sitting there thinking, okay cool, that sucks and now things will be different, but I'm so unenthused about this whole thing.

Plus there were just too many detractors. Like the mention of incest that's never explored. Maybe it was in the previous novels in the series, but here in this book where there's literally no mention of it ever again it was just weird. It's like me telling you a story about baseball and then interrupting myself real quick to tell you I like Chinese food before continuing on with my baseball story.

The same thing happened with the psychic. I have no clue what the point of the psychic was, or why we needed to know about the ghosts she sees and the one that possesses her. It had no bearing on Elinor and Paul's story as a whole and really just didn't make sense with the rest of the novel.

The book is good, yes, but not something I would remember a month from now. Perhaps it will have a better audience with someone at work; I'll leave it in the break room with a sticky note that says "FREE" and see if anyone goes for it.
560 reviews12 followers
June 6, 2016
Pat Barker is one of my favourite authors, jowever her work can sometimes be uneven and unlike her masterpiece Regeneration qhich is one of the most unforgetable dictions of the First World War, her life class trology is uneven in parts. However there is much to enjoy about the book as an ex-Londoner myself I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of summer and early autumn in London and her extensively researched knowledge of some of the lesser known London highways and byways. I also always enjoy Barker"s common touch and her attention to detail particularly her details of working class life. In this novel the characters of the reluctant evacuee Kenny and the haunted tragic figure of Bertha Mason provide a stark contrast to the more priviliged lives of the artist Kit Neville"s daughter who is evacuated to America and Elinor and Paul who bombed out of one property have others to conveniantly retreat to.

Barker also provides some truly memorable images of the Blitz in London, a child is manouvred, shoulders rotated but is dead on emerging, horses their tales on fire clatter in terror through the cobbled mews, houses display their insides out. I also found her portrait of the medium who appeats beyond the tawdry manufactured artiface to have genuine clairvoyant powers deeply unsetling and an exelar of the desperate, abused lives of working class women.

This novel in my view is not vintage Barker but she is an effortless writer who makes it all look deceptively simple and there is much to enjoy here. I may reread back to back with Life Class and Toby"s Room to notice more nuances.
Profile Image for Jenny.
76 reviews
May 17, 2020
Gosh, like the first book in the trilogy, there seemed to be a lot of unnecessary descriptions of persons who were not essential to the plot.
I kept thinking back to the first book and an early entry about a young woman Paul sees in the park. She seems to be drunk and pursued by a letcher. The end.
What is the purpose of the character of Bertha Mason? Three chapters about her and I have no idea what is the point?
So, trilogy's, just long drawn out poorly edited books in three volumes? I don't know.
I felt this way reading the Girl with the dragon tattoo, trilogy. Those three volumes could have been cut to one longer book.
So, did I like this book? Yes, would I recommend it? Maybe. I think,Toby's Room is the strongest book here and definitely worth reading. Life class and Noonday are good, but much of both books are not essential to the whole story, or at least what I got out of it. I think I mentioned I was impatient? I guess I like to get to core of a story and that can be a mistake sometimes. Some other reviewers speak of how literary Barker is. I don't know enough about some of those references, so, that is one thing I would discuss in a book group.
They are very well written and Barker has a wonderful style. Maybe, I have to read them all again.
Until about page 200, I would give this book 2.5 stars. The last 100 pages or so made me think it deserved 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Bernadette Jansen op de Haar.
101 reviews14 followers
March 21, 2016
Superficially, Noonday by Pat Barker can be read as a very well written and interesting love-hate triangle between Paul, Elinor and Neville (Kit). That alone would make a wonderful book but it is so much more.

Noonday shows us the devastating effects of the London blitz, devastating for buildings as well as relationship. And it shows us this, Pat Barker doesn’t just tell the story, full of striking scenes such as the one of doctors operating under the light of London burning, you can almost feel the heat. Middle-aged Paul, Eleanor and Neville are all scarred by WW1, the men physically and well as emotionally, in Eleanor’s case it’s her failed attempt to come to terms with the death of her brother Toby.

All three are artists but only Eleanor is obsessed with actually capturing the devastation in all it gory and glory, though, poignantly, this is not appreciated by the powers that be.

In this book Pat Barker has beautifully managed to add an extra layer to a story that has been told many times before, thereby illustrating once again the power of a novel.
Profile Image for Mandy.
3,217 reviews278 followers
September 2, 2015
The concluding volume in her WWII trilogy (following on from Life Class and Toby’s Room) seemed to me to lack some of Pat Barker’s usually skilful writing and attention to detail. Almost as though she had run out of steam. There are some banal similes to be found here, some clichéd expressions and sentiments that are absent from her earlier books, and the odd unnecessary and uninteresting sub-plot. In particular the introduction of the Bertha character and the spiritualist episodes added nothing to my interest in the main characters from the earlier volumes. Pat Barker doesn’t really seem capable of writing a bad book, but this isn’t one of her best, sadly, and I felt the trilogy came to an end with a whimper not a bang.
54 reviews
October 12, 2015
Well artists are so different from other people aren't they? Have incestuous relationships, hop in and out of bed with friends.....
Really didn't like this trilogy that much, perhaps that as an artist myself I saw too many cracks and clichés.
In my experience most artists are just as boring and normal as the rest of the population and it's generally only the bad ones that feel they have to be "eccentric".
Couldn't take this volume that seriously after the references to plastic....plastic catheter bag and plastic nail brush, neither of which were available in 1940. Plastic bags were not in general use till the end of the 1960s in the UK and in the 1940s a catheter bag would have been latex. What ever happened to editors?
Some good bits of description but overall a disappointing read.
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