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Eye In The Door [Hardcover]

Pat Barker
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 12 2012
Characters from Regeneration return in a tale set after World War I, as Britain undergoes a period of repression and psychiatrist Dr. William Rivers, poet Siegfried Sassoon, and Lieutenant Billy Prior cope with the war's aftermath. 15,000 first printing. $15,000 ad/promo.

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The Eye in the Door is the second installation of Pat Barker's acclaimed and haunting historical fiction trilogy about British soldiers traumatized by World War I trench warfare and the methods used by psychiatrist William Rivers to treat them. As with the other two, the book was recognized with awards, winning the 1993 Guardian Fiction Prize. Here, Lieutenant Billy Prior is tormented by figuring out which side of several coins does he live -- coward or hero, crazy or sane, homosexual or heterosexual, upper class or lower. He represents the upheaval in Britain during the war and the severe trauma felt by its soldiers. The writing is sparse yet multilayered; Barker uses the lives of a few to capture an entire society during a tumultuous period.

From Publishers Weekly

British writer Barker's ability to invest what appears to be a simple narrative with many levels of meaning and to convey a harrowing story in spare, uncluttered prose was amply demonstrated in her acclaimed previous novel, Regeneration . This quietly powerful story begins in 1917, where Regeneration left off; the epigraph from The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde hints at what is to come, referring to "the two natures that contended in . . . my consciousness." Though not as flamboyant as Stevenson's protagonist(s), all the main characters here are leading double lives, some consciously, others as a result of traumatic experiences. Having been released from Craiglockhart War Hospital (where shell-shock victims are sent to convalesce), Lt. Billy Prior is still concealing his working-class origins. Assigned to the Intelligence Unit, he must betray the very people who sheltered him when he was young, and soon his conscious mind succumbs to the pressure. If Prior has "a foot on both sides of the fence," so has patrician Charles Manning, who must conceal his homosexuality. Even the director of Craiglockhart, W.H.R. Rivers (an eminent neurologist and social anthropologist in real life) suffers from a mysterious loss of visual memory, stemming from a buried incident in his youth. And poet Siegfried Sasson again struggles to reconcile his pacifist beliefs with his need to stand by his men in battle. As in the earlier book, Barker uses their interaction to illuminate the terrible effects of conflict, but here she broadens her canvas to include the conscientious objectors, socialists and homosexuals who were accused of treasonous behavior during WW I. The multi-suggestive title applies to the hysterial outcry against "outsiders"; the observation hole in the prison door, behind which pacifists are jailed; the "eye in the door of the mind" that triggers dissociated states; and the particulars of a notorious court case of 1917 in which a demented bigot, supported by a prominent MP, accused 47,000 Englishmen and women of homosexuality, which ostensibly made them vulnerable to German blackmail. Writing with cool understatement, Barker conveys with equal skill the desperation of men suffering from battlefield trauma, the subtle ramifications of class distinctions in a period of rapid social change and the quality of life in Britain's poverty-stricken industrial areas. As haunting as its predecessor, this moving antiwar novel is also a cautionary tale about the price of cultural conformity.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Jekyll and Hyde shell-shocked Jan. 23 2004
Format:Paperback
THE EYE IN THE DOOR (spoilers)
Ms Barker's epigraph, a quote from Stevenson, sets the tone: "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."
I am hampered in critiquing the trilogy, since I've read only the first two works, REGENERATION and THE EYE IN THE DOOR. The first of these concentrates on the relation between the enlightened, humane Dr Rivers and the war hero/war protester Siegfried Sassoon, who has been labeled a war neurotic ("shell-shocked") in order to avoid confronting his rational case against the war. Both Rivers and Sassoon are historical characters who the author effectively fictionalizes (their dialogues, etc).
The second novel focuses on the relation between Rivers and Billy Prior, a relatively minor character in the first. The book is set on a wider stage than REGENERATION, which was confined to the (real) mental hospital of Craiglockhart in Scotland. Here we are in London, during the crisis produced by the initial success of the Germans' spring offensive in 1918. As happens during defeats, the search is on for scapegoats seen as undermining the war effort, groups like pacifists and ... who are seen as destroying the nation's "moral fiber." Ludicrously, the leading anti-... crusader, lays the blame on the Germans, who are said to have sent homosexual agents over before the war to corrupt English youth.
Billy Prior, on medical leave from the front, works for a counter-intelligence agency, but his loyalties are divided, since his earliest friends are pacifists and "conchies" (conscientious objectors).
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5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely book Nov. 28 2003
Format:Paperback
People existing against a war background-normal people doing normal things whilst shouldering the burden of their experiences, their fears and societies norms and expectations.
A lovely book that always has the lightest of touches in the darkest of moments. Nothing is simple and nothing is complicated, but everything is ambiguous and dwarfed by "the front" and what is expected.
The writing is always simple, but the ideas, concepts and dilemmas dealt with are complex and impossible to resolve. Class and duty are themes; the most interesting theme in my opinion is that of being a pacifist, a father figure to your men and a violent war hero simultaneously. (By the nature of things, war heroes are violent.)
My one regret is that I have only just realised that this book is part of a trilogy and that I have read it out of sequence... although on the positive side it means I have two more books to explore. I would strongly recommend this book; I have just gone and bought one of Sassoon's books as a direct result of it awakening school hood poems by him and Wilfred Owens.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "People don't want reasons, they want scapegoats" Nov. 19 2003
Format:Paperback
THE EYE IN THE DOOR is the second installment in Pat Barker's marvelous Regeneration trilogy. In this volume the principle characters of Dr. Rivers and Prior have left Criaglockhart War Hospital and are now living in London. Although Dr. Rivers has taken a new position treating shell-shock soldiers who have returned from the front in France, he continues to keep in touch and treat his former patients from Criaglockhart, especially Prior. Amidst the bombing and blackouts of wartime London, Prior continues to suffer from war neurosis as he embarks on solving a mystery that involves his childhood friends and acquaintances. He is confronted by England's societal fixation with fear and scapegoating of those who are believed to deter from the war effort (mainly war deserters and homosexuals). Individuals are often forced to hide their true attributes from society during this time of societal finger pointing and blaming. As in the previous volume of this trilogy, the characters of Prior and Dr. Rivers are well developed and nuanced. I continually enjoy reading about their trials and tribulations, and look forward to reading the third and final volume in this trilogy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Regeneration Trilogy Dec 5 2002
Format:Paperback
Pat Barker's magnificent trilogy is not only a profound contribution to our literature on the First World War - it is also one of the most distinguished works of contemporary fiction in any genre. Barker doesn't skirt around the central issues with a po-faced patriotic reverence, but rather tackles them head on: the agonizing contradictions of patriotism and protest; the politics of social and self-surveillance; the homoerotic undertones of trench camaraderie, especially among the war poets; the horrendous physical and psychological costs of war; and the sense of personal duty which drives us, nonetheless, to fight. These are big themes, but Barker's talent is to handle them in a way which makes her novels feel like an easy read. They are accessible, engaging, seemingly simplistic in their style - but in the end profoundly moving in a way which only the highest literature aspires to be. The trick is that she makes her characters so real for us - Prior and Rivers, the consistent protagonists, are completely human. She makes us experience a world-historical incident on a very human scale. Harrowing, intelligent, moving and funny, Barker has crafted a fictional epic that will stay with you forever. Walking through Sydney's Central railway station months after finishing these books, I came across the honour boards listing the hundreds of railway men and women who died in the Great War. Barker's books made the war real for me, made these lives - these deaths - real. If they do nothing more than that for you, they've succeeded.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Safety in the Eye of the Storm
As the second novel in Barker's "Regeneration" trilogy, this one continues to explore the depravity, insanity and outright pathos of war as it warped and destroyed the collective... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Ian Gordon Malcomson
5.0 out of 5 stars Healthy and Unhealthy Mind Dualities Driven by War Tragedies and...
If you haven't read Regeneration, you are making a big mistake if you read The Eye in the Door before Regeneration. Read more
Published on April 28 2008 by Donald Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars If you only read one war book -- make it 3 -- this trilogy!
This is #2 of the Pat Barker trilogy about World War I, and this second book is as important as anything you're going to read about war in this challenging season (fall '01). Read more
Published on Sept. 26 2001 by Maureen
5.0 out of 5 stars So very powerfu and intense
I really believe that the most difficult task of any writer would be to write a historical novel, particularly one set during war years, that is fresh and void of cliche. Read more
Published on May 22 2001 by Jan McGreger
5.0 out of 5 stars �a strip of empathic wallpaper�
If "Regeneration" were to be considered the story of Dr. Rivers and his patient Siegfried Sassoon, "The Eye In The Door" might be said to be the story of the same doctor and... Read more
Published on Nov. 22 2000 by taking a rest
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine novel in a wonderful trilogy
The first world war exerts a strange facsination for British writers. In recent years Alan Bleasdale (in television's The Monocled Mutineer), Sebastian Faulks, and Pat Barker,... Read more
Published on Nov. 3 2000 by "scottish_lawyer"
5.0 out of 5 stars In many ways the most interesting volume in the trilogy
This middle book in Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy tends to get ignored in favour of the other two. Undeservedly so. Read more
Published on May 6 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical novel: universal, timeless truth and illusion
I have read Regeneration, Ghost Road and The Eye in the Door. I was struck by the passages in The Eye which described the process of regeneration. Read more
Published on July 19 1997
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