The Eye in the Door

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Overview

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...
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Overview

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

This prize winning sequel to the author's acclaimed masterpiece of antiwar literature, Regeneration, "calls to mind . . . Hemingway and Fitzgerald" (Boston Globe) and stands on its own as an eloquently and morally complex novel of the brutal effects of World War I on the human psyche and British society as a whole.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (May)
Library Journal
Revisiting World War I England to explore war and its effects on individuals and society, Barker brings back characters that readers will remember from Regeneration(LJ 3/1/92), including bisexual war hero Billy Prior and psychiatrist William Rivers. In 1918, the war was not going well for the Allies, and hysteria took root-the targets being pacifists and homosexuals, who were allegedly open to blackmail. Prior has connections to a group of pacifists who are being persecuted, and he also suffers from psychological episodes in which his personality alters dramatically. Dr. Rivers treats both Prior and other homosexuals on ``The 47,000,'' a list of all purported gays in Britain. This book lacks some of the emotional impact of Regeneration, but the plot is more complex and makes for a more compelling work. Recommended for most fiction collections.-C. Christopher Pavek, Putnam, Hayes & Bartlett, Inc. Information Ctr., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452272729
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/28/1995
  • Series: Regeneration Trilogy Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.16 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Pat Barker

Pat Barker has earned a place in the first rank of contemporary British writers with such novels as Union StreetRegeneration (shortlisted for Britain's prestigious Booker Prize and chosen by the New York Times as one of the four best novels of 1992), The Eye in the Door(winner of the 1993 Guardian fiction prize), and The Ghost Road (winner of the 1995 Booker Prize). The latter three novels are available in Dutton hardcover and Plume paperback editions. Pat Barker lives in Durham, England.

Biography

It took Pat Barker ten years to find a publisher for her first novel, but when Union Street was released in 1982, critical reaction was extremely positive. A gritty tale set in the 1970s, the book recounts the interconnected stories of seven women living in an industrial town in northern England. Barker, a former teacher of history and politics, was recognized as a formidable, if late-blooming talent. In its review, The New York Times mused, "Pat Barker gives the sense of a writer who has enormous power that she has scarcely had to tap to write a first-rate first novel." The literati agreed. The following year, Barker appeared on Granta magazine's list of the 20 Best Young British Novelists alongside such future luminaries as Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, and Ian McEwan.

Although Barker received critical praise for her early books, tales that limned the bleak lives of working class Britons, she struck her most resonant chord with the Regeneration Trilogy, a series of novels based on the experiences of shell-shocked WWI soldiers (including poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen) at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland. The first novel in the trilogy, the splendid Regeneration, was named by The New York Times as one of the four best books of 1991; its sequel, The Eye in the Door, won the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1993; and the concluding novel, The Ghost Road, was awarded the 1995 Booker Prize for Fiction.

Certainly, Barker has explored the nuances of contemporary civilian life in subsequent novels; but the specter of war, especially the Great War, seems always to loom over her writing. One explanation is that the grandfather who raised her fought in the trenches in France. Although he seldom spoke about the war, it came to haunt him in his later life. Even unvoiced, his wartime experiences became part of her childhood "stock of memories."

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    1. Hometown:
      Durham, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 8, 1943
    2. Place of Birth:
      Thornaby-on-Tees, England
    1. Education:
      London School of Economics; Durham University

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2012

    PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ.

    ON TIME,AND IN EXCELLENT CONDITION.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2011

    Brilliant WWI Novel

    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2008

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