The final part of a trilogy. 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 Tarrant works as an air-raid warden.
Noonday seems just a bit smaller than Pat Barker at her best, however readable and indeed enthralling, and however much its stakes are matters of life and death — smaller than when art and history were on the table as well.
Some of [Barker's] language becomes bruise-purple; readers might not want to hear quite so much sentiment along the lines of 'Nightmares crawled across each other like copulating toads.' It's no mean feat to match the horror of a historical experience with horrific language and not go over the top into fright-show territory. Often enough, Pat Barker walks this line with sensory-thick language; its sweep makes us truly appreciate life and death in a decimated landscape...
Barker is known as a war writer, but she might be better understood as an observer of institutions: hospitals, prisons, schools. She is at her best when she can organize her story within such an institution, and has a Rivers or a Tonks to guide its telling—when she puts us in the hands of professionals. In Noonday, unfortunately, nobody has been put in charge... All sorts of rich and terrible details are caught up in the sweeping panorama that Barker produces—horses galloping away from an explosion, their manes and tails on fire; a dog hiding behind a bed with a dead couple—but there is nothing that, in Elinor’s words, we don’t know how to look at.