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The Eye in the Door (1993)

by Pat Barker

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Regeneration (2)

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2,024476,646 (4.01)194
It is 1918, and Prior is in London working as an intelligence officer. His concern is the enemy within - though a clear definition of who exactly the enemy is proves harder to come by than he might have imagined.

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» See also 194 mentions

English (45)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
This sequel to [Regeneration] follows three of the characters in that book as they struggle to contend with the war. Rivers has taken a post as neurologist in London, Sassoon is wounded, back from another tour of duty, and Prior, the main focus of the book, has been declared unfit because of his asthma and works in a sector of the Intelligence agency.

Everyone feels watched. The British home command and their peers have become virulantly homophobic, even more than in peacetime, blaming them for the horrific losses of the war, and, in addition to attacking suspected homosexuals, has been attacking the pacifics protesting the war. This strains many, and allows Rivers in his capacity as neurologist (read analyst) to delve even deeper into his patients' lives.

As a member of intelligence, Prior is deeply divided between the people he knew growing up, active in the pacifist cause, and his own service requirements. His bisexuality doesn't give him any ease either, and he begins having totally dissociative episodes after which he cannot recall what he has done. Barker's portrayal of this is ultimately breathtaking.

Rivers, deeply involved as he is, takes on more and more of his patients' pain, to the point of having their nightmares.

"This was a dreadful place. Nothing human could live here. Nothing human did. He was entirely alone, until, with a puckering of the surface, a belch of foul vapours, the mud began to move, to gather itself together, to rise and stand before him in the shape of a man. A man who turned and began striding towards England. He tried to call out, no, not that way, and the movement of his lips half woke him. But he sank down again, and again the mud gathered itself into the shape of a man, faster and faster until it seemed the whole night was full of such creatures, creatures composed of Flanders mud and nothing else, moving their grotesque limbs in the direction of home." ( )
  ffortsa | Sep 17, 2021 |
Although I preferred Regeneration this is an excellent follow up. We see less of Sassoon and Owen and a lot more of Billy Prior. Rivers remains a fascinating character and a sympathetic lens to view the various mental disorders of the soldiers.

I think Billy Prior is a brilliant character, full of complexity and contradictions, and this book really gets to the heart of his background. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Jul 26, 2021 |
“The epicritic grounded in the protopathic, the ultimate expression of the unity we persist in regarding as the condition of perfect health”

This is what Dr W.H.R Rivers (or perhaps Pat Barker) thinks as he struggles to help soldiers suffering from the effects of war in the trenches during the first world war. For a book that has a psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist as its hero Barker does well in explaining the issues without the use of too much jargon and that is possibly why the extract above stood out from the text for me, because it is unrepresentative.

Barkers “The Eye in the Door” is an historical novel detailing the treatment of mentally wounded soldiers by Dr Rivers; one of whose tasks is to decide whether they are fit to return to active service. The time period is towards the end of the war when mental health issues were becoming more prevalent although little understood by many in the medical profession. While Doctor Rivers’ star patient Siegfried Sassoon is well documented the two major protagonist/patients; Billy Prior and Charles Manning are inventions by the author. The backdrop to the story are two major events of the period; an attempt to assassinate Lloyd George and the sensationalist headlines concerning a list of 47,000 people who because of their beliefs, race or sexual orientation were branded as undermining the British war effort. Prior and Manning’s invented stories interweave around the historical events in a way that is thoroughly convincing. In fact Barker’s depiction of an England that is suspicious, bureaucratic, nasty, class ridden, but jingoistic and fully committed to winning the war is distinctly plausible. It is a place where spies, intelligence and counter intelligence can destroy lives both innocent or guilty or more usually because they are seen to be different. Nasty grubby little people can flourish while across the channel the horrors of war still seem to be far enough away. Barker talks about bombing raids over London as though they were usual, but I think they were few and far between, it is the wounded soldiers and those home on leave that bring the war to England’s shores.

The novel is anti-war in so far as it describes in striking detail and imagery the horrors of trench warfare, but this contrasts with life in England where it is only citizens actions and thoughts about themselves and one another that cause problems. Soldiers experiencing a life at war as part of the war machine and then life at home amongst people who have no experience of the horrors, find themselves in two worlds and so it is unsurprising that people like Dr Rivers have to try put people back together again. It is a subject that provides fertile ground for novelists, but at the end of the day I am not convinced by ‘The Eye in the Door’. First of all it is all over far too quickly, Barker could have explored her characters further. I understand that those people who are well documented as part of the history of the times present limitations for the author, but even Manning and Prior her own characters hardly leap off the page and Dr Rivers is almost a cypher. Secondly I find her writing style curiously flat, I found there was nothing much on which to dwell and I ended up reading through it too quickly. There does not seem to be much of a plot, nothing appears resolved and I finished the book much as I started. These observations are personal to me as other readers might enjoy Barker’s writing style and as it is part of a trilogy of books then issues might feel more resolved in the final book. I have the third part of the trilogy sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, but I can’t say I am really looking forward to it and so a niggardly three stars from me. ( )
  baswood | Jan 24, 2019 |
Exploring sexuality and masculinity during WWI. ( )
  brakketh | Feb 16, 2017 |
THE EYE IN THE DOOR is book two in Pat Barker's WWI trilogy which began with REGENERATION, a superb novel. The story of Dr. William Rivers and his shell-shock patients - which include poet Siegfried Sassoon - continues here, but with something of a new emphasis on things like schizophrenia, as evidenced in character Billy Prior's frequent blackouts - blank spaces in his life during which he has no idea what he might have done. The Jekyll-Hyde comparison is used more than once in the story. Indeed, the book's epigraph is a quote from the R.L. Stevenson classic. Rivers begins to better understand Sassoon's own case thusly -

"Siegfried had always coped with the war by being two people: the anti-war poet and pacifist; the bloodthirsty, efficient company commander ... experience gained in one state was available to the other. Not just 'available': it was the serving officer's experience that furnished the raw material ... for the poems."

The dual personality, or schizophrenia, becomes relevant not just to Prior's case, but also to Sassoon and to Dr. Rivers himself, who, like Prior, may have suffered some undiagnosed psychological trauma in his own childhood.

Lt Billy Prior, in any case, is an ingenious, fascinating and utterly believable character - a marvelous creation, and, along with Rivers and Sassoon, a character central to all three novels. Molested by a priest as a boy, he seems at times to be utterly amoral in his tortured bisexuality, and is also ultra-aware (and contemptuous) of the constancy of the English class system within the army.

While I'm not sure THE EYE IN THE DOOR is quite as good as REGENERATION, it is certainly key to understanding the complete trilogy. Or at least I think it is. I am reading book three (THE GHOST ROAD) now. Very highly recommended. Pat Barker is a marvelous story teller who has an intimate grasp of what makes people tick. Her trilogy of the Great War is a look into the horrors of shell shock, 'neurasthenia,' or, as we know it today, PTSD.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Jan 5, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
"The Eye in the Door" succeeds as both historical fiction and as sequel. Its research and speculation combine to produce a kind of educated imagination that is persuasive and illuminating . . . Occasionally the novel's pedagogic impulse, usually smoothly subterranean, surfaces. . . Ultimately, though, "The Eye in the Door" is an impressive work. . .

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pat Barkerprimary authorall editionscalculated
宋瑛堂Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fienbork, MatthiasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Firth, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hansen, Fjord TrierNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Καφούρου, ΚατερίναTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Møller-Madsen, LisbethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McGann, PaulNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pleitgen, UlrichNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steven, CrossleyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
van Dijk, EdithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognize the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both...
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
-R. L. Stevenson
For David
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In formal beds beside the Serpentine, early tulips stood in tight-lipped rows.
The reader may find it useful to have a brief outline of the historical events that occurred in 1917-1918 on which this novel is based. (Author's Note)
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It is 1918, and Prior is in London working as an intelligence officer. His concern is the enemy within - though a clear definition of who exactly the enemy is proves harder to come by than he might have imagined.

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Book description
Dit tweede deel van Pat Barkers trilogie over de Eerste Wereldoorlog schildert de hysterie die in i 918 aan het Engelse thuisfront ontstaat. Pacifisten en homoseksuelen worden aangewezen als de oorzaak van een dreigende nederlaag. Luitenant Prior, die sinds hij aan het front de oogbal van een gesneuvelde kameraad in zijn hand heeft gehouden aan een oorlogstrauma lijdt, wordt ingezet tegen zijn vroegere pacifistische vrienden.
'...Als de romantrilogie voltooid is, heeft de moderne Britse literatuur er een monumentaal werk bij...'
De Volkskrant
'...een verbijsterend origineel stuk fictie, geënt op feiten. Geschreven in een intense, objectieve, volmaakt beheerste stijl../
The Sunday Telegraph
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141030941, 0143566474


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