Michael's Reviews > The Eye in the Door

The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker
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's review
Aug 30, 2010

really liked it
Read in August, 2010

In this, the second volume of Barker's Great War trilogy, she continues the stories of Dr. Rivers, Siegfried Sassoon, and Billy Prior, introduced in Regeneration. In the current volume, themes hinted at in the first novel are made explicit, including the homosexuality and bisexuality of some characters, class divisions, and the antagonism of many in the war-stressed British population toward "conchies," pacifists, and other opponents of British war policy. The story of Billy Prior's schitzophrenia takes center stage, as he attempts to save an old pacifist friend from an unjust imprisonment. The "eye in the door" refers explicitly to the peephole in the door of a prison cell, but Barker explores the symbolism of "eyes" and "seeing" at great length and with good effect. On the whole, the book is weaker as a stand-alone novel than Regeneration, but it functions well as the bridge in the trilogy, having, as is usual in such constructions, the burden of narrative development to carry from the introduction toward the climax and denouement. The dehumanizing effect of war on the British civilian population is as much a theme here as is the barbarity of trench warfare for the soldiers. In neither case does what happens in France stay in France. Insanity is a relative term in wartime, and, as Barker shows, much depends on who gets to write the labels.
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