42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
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 another patient, Mr. Billy Prior. I also would say that the opening comment is an oversimplification. The first two volumes of this trilogy are amazingly rich in detail and personality, and part three, "The Ghost Road", is proving to be no different.
The title of this review is a quote expressed by Prior early in his treatment with Dr. Rivers. It describes a fictional character, but it also demonstrates Pat Barker's brilliant use of words. She has the ability to transform a cliché, to make it fresh, her own, as when she speaks through a female character, "In her world, men loved women as the fox loves the hare. And women loved men as the tapeworm loves the gut." A bit more thought provoking than, men are from Mars, women from Venus.
Mr. Prior becomes an amalgam for many, and perhaps most of the issues the first two books explore. He also through his complex of issues, greatly affects Dr. Rivers. The Doctor cannot maintain complete detachment; one scene even has them switching roles, with Prior drilling into the painful childhood of his advisor. The relationship between Rivers and Prior becomes so psychologically intense, the doctor finds himself dreaming the nightmares "of others". He starts to identify with a critical event that may have damaged Prior as a child. The timing and location of their respective young fears is amazingly similar.
Ms. Barker seems to use the doctor as a metaphor for his patients and their collective experiences. Prior has more going on within his world than anyone could be expected to cope with and remain sane. Prior exists in many states, almost all of which are in impossible contradiction. His mental state eventually reaches a point where his mind makes a severe adjustment in an attempt to cope. With him Ms. Barker has created one of the more complex characters in fiction.
Prior is a decorated soldier who returns to the War four times. Prior is a man whose childhood friends are pacifists. He meets with several and contrary to his duty as a soldier does not turn them in. He tries to have one objector released from jail, the justification is perjured testimony, the truth is quite different.
This installment takes place during the trial when Lord Alfred Douglas made his famous statement in court, that Robert Ross a friend of Oscar Wilde, was "the leader of all the sodomites in London". This too was the time of the black book with 47,000 names of "degenerates" that were "causing" the War to turn against England.
In the midst of all of this, Prior is working for the Government, he is a soldier, he empathizes with pacifist friends, helping them while denouncing their philosophy. He is a bisexual male who also is engaged to marry. His relationships with men do not abate when he decides to wed. He has been wounded and sent back to fight, he has been treated for shellshock and has been sent back to fight, and he is an asthmatic who is sent to fight in the gas of Flanders, twice.
This is one patient amongst many Dr. Rivers has and continues to treat. He has begun to suffer in ways that were once the purview of his patients. His feelings about the War do not change; at least he believes they do not. And guilt becomes a catalyst for his own terrors and nightmares.
And to make sure the reader is kept working, Ms. Barker brings back Siegfried Sassoon, a new version of him perhaps, but extremely interesting as well.
The small number of reviews surprised me for so acclaimed a work. My thought is that some material, while important to the story, is just too graphic for some readers. Ms. Barker holds nothing back when describing the horror of War, so it would have been inconsistent to back off on issues or actions that are potentially contentious for some. As I said in my review of the first book, I make no judgment on the subjects or readers. I believe the writer wanted to bring the full force of all aspects of her work to the reader, and for that I believe her courage is to be admired. She does not vary the intensity to the sensibilities of what may be an issue for some, she writes her books, as she needs to tell her story, she is a gutsy lady.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2001
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. In this regard, Pat Barker is truly amazing. Both "Regneration" and "The Eye in the Door" offer fresh voice and lack sentimentality..."Regeneration" and "The Eye in the Door" are intense and searchingly deep. Barker has written about psychological problems in terms a layman can grasp. She has written passionately of a war often over-shadowed by successive wars and of the pain and fear more comfortably white-washed by patriotism.
These books will engender fresh compassion for those veterans who have bravely fought wars abroad, witnessing and suffering untold horrors and for those who bravely fought at home by questioning the sanity of what politics demanded and were branded cowards for their beliefs.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 1997
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. Learning to discern the source of pain, emotional or physical, and dealing with it consciously or through our dreams, are deeper lessons to be found in these historical novels. Integrating cerebral and emotional responses is a endeavor that we should each pursue. This fiction does in fact provide the reader, along with Dr. Rivers, with a vocabulary to address our duality whether it be in the context of World Was I or Vietnam or our daily efforts to understand our deepest motivations, stimulii, responses and perceptions of life. Ironically, I was reading Estes' Women who run with the Wolves at the same time I was enjoying these novels. The novels by Pat Barker illustrated the concept of Descanos, marking our "deaths" and failures which halt our lives unexpectedly. Acceptance, integration and forgiveness are the ultimate goals once the source of our pain is identified. By understanding the lessons that Barker teaches in her novels, I understand that although the world may be falling to pieces outwardly, we can heal ourselves with the assistance of our patient teachers by looking calmly at the situation that causes us rage and sorrow, projecting ourselves into the future, and from that vantage point deciding what would make us feel proud of our past behavior, and then acting that way. Learn about our darker sides. Barker's historical approach illuminates our universal truths and illusions because in a broad sense the emotional and physical problems of Dr. Rivers and his patients are our problems today. Jennifer Stuller Nehrbas
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2002
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2000
This middle book in Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy tends to get ignored in favour of the other two. Undeservedly so. It at first appears to go off at a tangent from the first book, developing established characters in a way that can be shocking. Yet its vivid descriptions of personal encounters involving Lt Prior, his doctor, his old and new friends, his parents and his lover are riveting, resulting in an overall impression that grips the imagination. I actually find it the most interesting of the three books.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2000
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, have all produced fine work relating to the war to end all wars. Even a fine genre writer like Reginald Hill (in The Wood Beyond) writes about the era.
The reasons for turning to this era are manifold. For the United Kingdom it marked the end of the nineteenth century, the beginning of the twentieth, in that the role of women in society, and that of the working class, changed forever. Emancipated, and with a democratic voice, British politics then changed.
Pat Barker's early novels engage with big social questions. Her novels set in northern English towns consider the class structure, and feminist issues, amid a "gritty" landscape. Her "Regeneration" trilogy is something of a departure in ostensible subject matter - but considering British social history, one can see why Barker turned to the era.
The Eye in the Door is the middle book in the trilogy. It is probably the poor relation in the trilogy, but is in many ways the most interesting novel. Where, Regeneration is set among the recuperating servicemen at the Craiglockhart hospital, this novel is English-based. Set in and around a government ministry in London and the north of England, it evokes a sense of society at the time. Barker also merges fact and fiction - using real life characters (such as the poet Seigfreid Sassoon and Dr W H Rivers) and situations (a libel trial based on a supposed list of deviants in the upper echelons of British society), and merging them in to her fictional backdrop.
This is aided by the central character, Billy Prior. Prior is working class, but an officer. Bisexual, he has no shame about his sexuality. Prior is a masterful character. Having been anicllary in Regeneration (which focussed on the relationship between Seigfried Sassoon and Rivers), Prior becomes the focus of the trilogy. His character out of sorts in both worlds he inhabits (from his own home and as a working class boy in the ministry).
My favourite character, though, is W H Rivers. Rivers was a great man. he developed more sensitive techniques to treat those suffering form shell shock, and his work at Craiglockhart was of tremendous importance. In the novels, his quandary in having to cure those damaged by war to send back to the front, to the root of their injury, is brought into sharp focus. This novel sketches in more of Rivers background (pyschological and emotional).
There is much haunting imagery in Barker's novel. The central image of the eye in the door - the eyehole in a prison door where the prisoner is kept in solitary confinement - is wonderfully drawn, permeating the dreams of Prior. The imagery of those kept in solitary confinement for their objection to the war will live long with me.
Barker is also a fine convincing writer of dialogue.
This novel is highly recommended. Although, it can be read as a stand alone novel, I think its impact is heightened when Regeneration has been read.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2001
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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). She looks at the inner workings of fear, prejudice and scapegoating -- in the case of WWI Britain, homosexuals and pacificists. Scapegoating is alive and well in America right now, as we look for someone to blame, or someone on whom to take out our tensions. All too often it looks like the "someone" is a fellow American with whom we disagree. Read this book, for a deeper understanding of the stresses and strains of war -- on soldiers, yes, but also on us all.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2003
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2005
After reading "Regeneration", the second novel of the trilogy "Eye in the Door" expands in terms of characterization and plot complexity. Whereas Regeneration is superb in its exploration of the consciousness of Siegfreid Sassoon and his psychiatrist, Dr. River; Eye in the Door expands the character of Billy Prior to become one of the most psychologically well developed and complex characters in English fiction.
Billy Prior , a bisexual, has both male and female lovers in this novel. These relationships are embedded in the homophobic atmosphere of war torn London. Prior, suffering from "shell shock" struggles with his identify of war hero and pacifism. He struggles with childhood trauma in a society where repressesions are let lose in a war charged atmospher.
The book is beautifully written. Whereas Regeneration explores Sassoon's struggles to brng meaning into a meaningless situation, Eye in the Door explores more of the societal struggles with the war and individual reactions to the pressures of a war time society.
I loved this book and would give it 10 stars if I could.
on July 23, 2013
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 soul of the British nation in W.W.I. The story is an interconnected tale of a host of pathetic individuals - among which is an unhappy imprisoned suffragette, a troubled intelligence officer - all who have become the victims of meat-grinder circumstances well beyond their control both on the homefront and out in the trenches. The awful memes of ordinary people being put through the mill of a senseless war, systematically dehumanized by the most brutal acts of state-run terror, makes for a disturbing read. This is a poignant account of how the ravages of war can turn the world upside down by radically changing people's morals and feelings. This part of the trilogy looks at Prior's life as a person officially assigned to keep a close eye on society's dangerous malcontents and flakes. It just so happens that the people he is to watch are connected to his past. Nothing is straight forward in war in the search for traitors. Nothing is spared as to how far the military and the government is prepared to sustain this evil enterprise, even if it destroys minds, turning friends against friends, impoverishes individuals and families, and silences true love. Playing in the background, in a not-to-subtle fashion, is a reminder that one of Oscar Wilde's not so nice plays, Salome, is playing in London and has attracted the attention of the authorities as to its potential to unsettle the nation so close to 'winning' the war. This piece of theatre is there to remind the reader that ironically even Herod's evil kingdom back then knew when to draw the line on acts of senseless cruelty. The reference in the title to the eye in the door shows how intent the nation's leaders are in making everyone aware they are being watched for the least suggestion of treason. As in the case of the poet Sassoon, one of the story's main characters, maybe the only place of true safety in this whole mess is to return to the killing fields where the eyes of an intrusive state can't penetrate.