The Eye in the Doorby Pat Barker
Pat Barker's brilliant antiwar novel, Regeneration, was widely hailed as a masterpiece and was named by the New York Times Book Review as one of the four best novels of 1992. Now Pat Barker returns to the World War I era with The Eye in the Door, winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize for 1993. It is the spring of 1918. On the battlefields of France, a mammoth German… See more details below
Pat Barker's brilliant antiwar novel, Regeneration, was widely hailed as a masterpiece and was named by the New York Times Book Review as one of the four best novels of 1992. Now Pat Barker returns to the World War I era with The Eye in the Door, winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize for 1993. It is the spring of 1918. On the battlefields of France, a mammoth German offensive threatens the English army with defeat. In England itself, a beleaguered government and panic-stricken, vengeful public seek scapegoats. Two groups are targeted for persecution and prosecution: pacifists and homosexuals. Many are jailed, others lead dangerous double lives; and "the eye in the door" becomes a symbol of the paranoia that threatens to destroy the very fabric of British society. Central to this novel is Lieutenant Billy Prior, recently released from treatment for shell shock by psychiatrist Dr. William Rivers. Prior is in London, assigned to a domestic Intelligence unit. His position demands that he investigate an imprisoned female pacifist accused of plotting a political assassination - a woman who raised him as a child, and who now accuses him of betraying that childhood. At the same time, he has had a casual but intense sexual encounter with a fellow patient of Dr. Rivers - Charles Manning, an upperclass officer whose social status and battlefield wounds must shield him from the growing danger of his exposure as a homosexual. Billy Prior is the man in the middle: a child of the working class raised to the rank of officer and gentleman; a soldier scarred by the horror of war but loyal to the men in the trenches; a bisexual of omnivorous appetites and withered emotions; and above all, a human being who feels himself torn in two as he is asked to take sides. Around this drama of split personality and the search for honor and truth, the author creates a vivid picture of a war-haunted society. Richly imagined characters like Billy Prior and Charles Manning seamlessly mesh with su
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I wasn't sure if it would be possible for Pat Barker to top "Regeneration," but "The Eye in the Door" does just that. Three of the main characters of "Regeneration" show up here, a year after their sessions in a Scottish rehab hospital for emotionally scarred WWI British soldiers. The focus here is on Billy Prior, a lieutenant whose war traumas worsen while he becomes involved in an investigation into a trumped up charge of political assassination to war protesters from his old neighborhood. Barker's mastery of dialog between the caring doctor Rivers and his disturbed patients never ceases to impress. The novel is based on actual scapegoating that went on in Britain during the Great War, and it's to Pat Barker's great credit that the "real" characters and the fictional are equally believable. "The Eye in the Door," by the way, can stand on its own as a read, though I'd highly recommend reading "Regeneration" first.
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