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The Eye In The Door (1995)

The Eye in the Door (1995)

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4.07 of 5 Votes: 1
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0452272726 (ISBN13: 9780452272729)

About book The Eye In The Door (1995)

“One began by finding mental illness mystifying, and ended by being still more mystified by health.”(147)Can an entire society develop PTSD? According to Pat Barker, Great Britain in April 1918 needs “regeneration.” War fatigue has set in, and the general public reads the casualty lists, shrugs, and turns to articles about celebrity trials and gossip. But four years of war have unleashed cruel and primitive forces that were better left suppressed, and anybody who is different is assumed to be somehow collaborating with the Germans. Pacifists make especially convenient scapegoats when there aren’t prisoners of war to spit upon or Dachshunds to kick. EITD is the second novel in the Regeneration Trilogy, and Barker restates and amplifies themes from the first volume,Regeneration,while continuing to flesh out her characters. She won the Booker Award for the third volume, The Ghost Road,in the trilogy. The title refers to a giant eye painted on the door of each prison cell holding a war dissenter. The cell door’s peephole forms the pupil, around which are painted extravagantly detailed illustrations of a veined iris, an eyelash, and a lid. Pacifists are thrown in these cold cells without even a blanket to shield their modesty. The evil eye reminds you that you are always being watched, even when you go to the bathroom. Moreover, those on the outside cannot escape the eye either; you never know when you are being watched.The Eye in the Door (imagine your own lashes)CHARACTERSBilly Prior. Billy rejoins us from the first novel, and he is the primary character in EITD. Billy is out of the hospital but still in uniform and working for the Department of Munitions as an investigator of the pacifists who are thought to be organizing strikes of munitions workers. The problem for Billy is that, as an officer from the working class and the son of a socialist, he is friends with some of these dissenters whom he must now investigate. Thus, he's conflicted between his duties to King and to old friends. The evil eye invades Billy’s nightmares as he remembers holding an eyeball blasted out of his soldier’s eye-socket. Prior is an “incongruous mixture of effeminacy and menace.” Many surprising revelations about Billy are in store for the reader from the beginning to the end.Beattie Roper. Beattie is in prison, and the eye is staring her down. It takes courage to be a pacifist in Britain in 1918, and Beattie’s tough pacifism arises out of moral choice not religious creed. Beattie is hunger-striking-tough: “I’m no weeping-Jesus sort of pacifist.” “She was one of those who felt every death. She’d never learnt to read the casualty lists over breakfast and then go off and have a perfectly pleasant day, as the vast majority of civilians did. If she had learnt to do that, she would not be in prison.”(36) Will Billy exonerate her or just make the plight of his friends worse? Beattie’s story is based on the historical Alice Wheeldon, who was convicted of attempting to poison Prime Minister Lloyd George. From right to left, Alice Wheeldon (Beattie Roper), and her daughters (also imprisoned) and a prison matronW.H.R. Rivers. We learn that Dr. Rivers, the hero of the first novel, has no visual memory. How has it been destroyed? Symbolically, his inner eye does not work. Is there a trauma lurking in his childhood that accounts for this deficiency? Is this lack of visual memory a help or hindrance in his work regenerating those with psychic wounds?Dr. RiversIDEASDuality. “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...."This quotation from Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” appears as an epigraph in EITD; it is also quoted by Dr. Rivers later in the novel. The concept of Jekyll-and-Hyde duality provides him insight into the treatment of his patients. Indeed, nearly every character in EITD is conflicted and burdened by duality-- as is the society as a whole, and part of the challenge of this book for the reader, like a treating physician, is to diagnose the many examples of societal and individual duality.The eye is also related to duality because most of us have blinded ourselves to our own duality, so we don’t have to see it anymore. To regenerate his patients, Rivers must confront duality as a virtual co-consciousness. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeThe "Suspension of Empathy". Nearly all Barker's characters, including her imagining of the WWI public, have suspended their ability to sympathize with other humans. Rivers points out how our duty to our fellow humans is routinely disregarded in order to fulfill our duties to country, family, or profession. Other people become “expendable, interchangeable units.” We assume that we, the morally enlightened, would never abandon our ability to care about others, but Barker implies that dispassion is required for the effective discharge of many duties, including those of the physician as well as those of the torturer. Some characters such as Beattie and Scudder refuse to suspend their empathy, but things don’t turn out so well for them. Furthermore, the suspension of empathy correlates with the theme of duality. On the one hand, “man needs to suspend empathy to fight and not get killed.” On the other, “man needs to not suspend empathy in order to regenerate and not crack up. Perhaps, contrary to what was usually supposed, duality was the stable state; the attempt at integration, dangerous.” (235) This is a carefully written and sophisticated novel worthy of your best efforts as a reader. Barker portrays WWI Britain as a Shutter Island, and there are many strange turns so that I always felt like I was a little behind and that I must have missed something. Upon a second reading, it is possible that EITD and its predecessor might be 5-star novels. Only the all-seeing Eye knows.Links to my Reviews of this Trilogy:Book 1: Regeneration 2: Eye in the Door 3: Ghost Road (Pulitzer Prize Winner) April 24, 2012.

In the 2nd book of the Regeneration trilogy, one re-encounters Prior, whom Barker describes as being "neither fish, nor fowl, nor good red herring." It struck me that this is the tone of the trilogy so far -- there is nothing that I can really feel -- nothing that really moves me -- because there is nothing to grasp solidly. It's not badly written; it's not that the story isn't worth knowing -- but, but ... I feel as fractured as the soldiers Barker writes about: I can't hold onto anything with any sense of satisfaction.The process of regeneration continues: we re-encounter the same characters from the previous novel who are in various stages of recovery from their wounds, both physical and psychological. A few new characters emerge to complicate the lives of the already-wounded. Torn, and war-torn, the soldiers walk through a somnambulist's nightmare, repeated in various stages of intensity and atrocity. Some heal, some get worse. Some completely forget why they're there in the first place; others, like Prior, self-induce a fugue state to absolve himself of his sins, both past and future. (He eventually betrays his best friend from childhood, which is telegraphed to the reader very early on. Go figure!) There is not much to like about Prior, in fact, and this last action puts paid to that fact.The characters are somewhat stagnant. To be fair, I wouldn't expect a vaudeville act from the walking wounded, but since they are purportedly in a state of "regeneration" I would expect more fluidity of psychological awareness and growth. Instead, Prior lives the same life, over and over again; as does Sassoon, as does Rivers, as they all do in fact. Lives are revealed in dribs and drabs, and episodes from the past, as far back as childhood, are repeated to the reader's distraction. The characters continue to make the same stupid mistakes; they continue to make the same ridiculous choices. Wherein lies the regeneration begins to escape me at this point.I am not convinced that soldiers led lives like these: the story dances a very close verisimilitude to the real dance of war, but is passionless and abstruse to my eyes. Where Barker surprises me, and thrills me, in the end, is the almost-extraneous history of Beattie Roper. I was riveted and I wanted 1000 pages more of Beattie's life. (Given that this novel was to have featured Beattie/Alice Wheeldon, I was disappointed to get so little of her story. Like Owen in Regeneration, Beattie makes an almost-cameo-appearance, yet she is the one who carries the novel.) It struck me in reading these lines, that Barker knew far more about women's psyches than she did about men's: it would have been Barker's crowning glory if she had written about war time women, rather than the soldiers she paints so nebulously.

Do You like book The Eye In The Door (1995)?

Horribly beautiful - and I mean horribly; this book rips your guts out and arrays them on the table while you watch. It's really devastating, with vividly realistic characters whose emotional plights don't always make them likeable but do always make them sympathetic. I may not remember the plot of this novel forever (I'm notoriously bad at that), but I will remember how it made me feel, and how it changed the way I think about people, about psychology and about the nuances of war.Also, the prose is an absolute delight, the kind of effortlessly masterful writing whose rhythm completely overtakes you. An example, from page 4 (before I'd grown too engrossed in the tale to specifically mark beautiful sentences): "They set off across the grass, their shadows stretching ahead of them, black, attenuated figures that reached the trees before they were anywhere near." Simple and evocative, a wonderfully vivid and original image without going purple.Basically, if you don't mind your fiction dark, and more about character interaction than exciting plot twists, this is the perfect book.

I think this novel stands quite well alone in addition to serving as an important second part in the series of three starting with Booker Prize winner "Regeneration". I read it out of sequence (as the last one), and that doesn't seem to matter for comprehension. Each focuses on a different set of characters in the circle of patients of psychiatrist William Rivers, a real man who treated soldiers damaged by their combat experiences in World War 1. The other volumes focus on the recovery of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, prominent gay poets who fought valiantly but wrote verse which stands among the great anti-war literature. This one concentrates on a complex fictional character Billy Prior, treated for what we would today call post-traumatic stress. Billy's tendency toward manipulation and violence, scary memory gaps, and bisexuality makes him hard to identify with, yet Rivers' compassion and flexible approach to treatment helped move me toward empathy. The theme of Rivers' moral struggles of treating people so they can return to being cannon fodder is less a theme for this tale than the pathologies in society brought out by the war. Billy's work in domestic intelligence puts him in a moral quagmire through alliance with forces that scapegoated pacifists and homosexuals and imputed their collusion with socialist union workers in munitions factories. The transformations of class discrimination during the social upheavals wrought by the war is another fascinating theme brought out well in the novel. This was brought out by having Billy try to save a childhood friend, a shopkeeper woman falsely convicted of plotting to kill the Prime Minister. The "eye in the door" of the title refers both to horror of being watched in one's cell or room in an asylum, as well as to being spied upon in daily life due to being perceived as a threat to the war effort.

This review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it was written in. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets indicate some additional information for the sake of readability). It is one of my lost reviews.It's a feeling I can't quite place, a feeling I can't pinpoint, but I feel The Eye in the Door is a more enjoyable book, although less literary, than Regeneration. Still, I will try here to point out a few elements that stand out in my mind.First, I love Prior's struggle with the dissociative state. His slipping into fugue states, and the resulting loss of memmory, adds a tinge of fear and menace to the story that makes me more emotionally involved. Second, I enjoy Barker's handling of betrayal in a torn society. Third is the wonderful way in which Barker deals with homosexuality in WWI-era Britain. Fourth, and maybe the most important, is the imagery of WWI warfare. When we hear Manning's story of the soldier slipping into the mud of a foxhole, it makes me feel weak and privileged in my relatively safe late 20th Century society.This book challenges me, and I love being challenged.

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