This is actually the first book of what became a trilogy; ideally, one should read them all -- this book first, next, The Eye in the Door, and finally, The Ghost Road. Barker has taken a kernel of reality (several of her characters are based upon real individuals) and built a fictional work that conveys the utter pointlessness of World War I. It?s set in England, and most of it takes place in a psychiatric institution. Her style suits the book perfectly and her characterization and her study of those whose minds have become unbalanced by the brutality of the trenches is spot-on. She channels several brilliant men whom the average American does not know nearly well enough: Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves and W. H. R. Rivers. (I'm guessing our friends across the pond are better acquainted with at least a couple of these guys.) Her own fictional creations are equally well-realized. This trilogy has spurred a renewed interest in World War I, and the poetry of that war, among non-academics.