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Reflections in a Golden Eye

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  4,458 ratings  ·  396 reviews
A powerful and passionate tale is set on a southern army post --a human hell inhabited by a sexually disturbed officer, his animalistic wife, her lover, and the driven young private who forces the drama to its climax...
Paperback, 136 pages
Published September 8th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1941)
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Traci Y Davis McCullers tells us twice in the novel: "'A peacock of a sort of ghastly green. With one immense golden eye. And in it these reflections of something t…moreMcCullers tells us twice in the novel: "'A peacock of a sort of ghastly green. With one immense golden eye. And in it these reflections of something tiny and ---'" "'Groteseque,' she finished for him. "

Every character in the novel is warped by some obsession, passion, self-denial, wantonness, self-indulgence, etc., etc., to the point that they are unable to function in normal human society. This is the definition of the "grotesque" in literature, especially in the "Southern Grotesque" school of writing (Faulkner, Welty, O'Connor, Capote, etc.). I think McCullers was trying to take the genre as far as it could go in order to examine how the concept works in all of us.(less)

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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  4,458 ratings  ·  396 reviews


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Candi
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
"… in a moment when a great but unknown shock is expected, the mind instinctively prepares itself by abandoning momentarily the faculty of surprise. In that vulnerable instant a kaleidoscope of half-guessed possibilities project themselves, and when the disaster has defined itself there is the feeling of having understood beforehand in some supernatural way."

From page one of this strange little book, there is a sense of impending doom hovering over the reader straight through to the very last pa
...more
Lisa
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This reads like a ghost story, even though there is nothing supernatural in it at all.

It is rather like an analysis of the inner ghosts people carry with them - making them act irrationally on an objective level while being perfectly logical according to the specific haunting that makes up their identity.

It also reads like a crime story running backwards, for we know from page one that one of the main characters is going to be murdered, and we know the entire cast of the tragedy as well. Over
...more
Dolors
Sep 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those daring to look at their reflection in the mirror
Shelves: read-in-2014
An impending sense of dread interlaces the lives of five characters set on an army base in the American South of the 1930s. They are all prey of the remorse that goes along with secret liaisons, inner frustrations and repressed sexual preferences. With the rigidness of the secluded military system and the inherent loneliness in hermetic marriages imposed by social convention as a backdrop, resentments and obsessions will fester in contained aggressiveness and will inevitably escalate towards a v ...more
Michael
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, recs
A short and strange story full of dread, Reflections in a Golden Eye reflects on the nuances of illicit attraction. Set on a southern fort during WWII, the nearly plotless novel follows a small cast of characters—two officers, their wives, a soldier, and a servant—as they are alternately drawn to and repulsed by each other. An undercurrent of gallows humor runs throughout the novel, which’s written in haunting prose and filled with mesmerizing and unsettling imagery. The work seems best approach ...more
Paul Bryant
Dec 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Carson’s biographer tells us that her family got an anonymous phone call just after this novel was published.

An alleged Ku Klux Klansman called to say that he and his friends were going to get her that night. She had been a “nigger lover” in her first book, he said, and now she had proven herself “a queer” as well. Carson’s indignant father waited all night on the front porch of their Starke Avenue home to greet the Klansman with a loaded shotgun and was disappointed when no one attempted to car
...more
Chrissie
This novel, Carson McCullers's second, first came out serialized in Harper's Bazaar in 1940. The following year it was published as a book. She wrote it in 1939, originally entitled Army Post. The idea for the book grew from both a visit she had made as an adolescent to Fort Benning in Georgia and then later her husband's mention of a peeking Tom incident at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. I assume you know what a peeping Tom is.

The story is laid up as a mystery. You are told at the beginning tha
...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

I am humbled once again by the familiarity of Carson McCullers with pain, loneliness and alienation - the dark thread that ties together her novels and stories, the silent scream of despair that unites the patrons of a sad cafe with the unsuccesful hunters for love in a mill town, and now with the officers and their consorts on an army base somewhere in Georgia.

I am so immersed in my characters that their motives are my own. When I write about a thief, I become one; when I write about Captain P
...more
WILLIAM2
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, us
I love the way McCullers's work is overrun with the most vivid queens. Some closeted, like Lieutenant Penderton here, but others gay and carefree, like Anacleto, Mrs. Langdon's Filipino houseboy. This is a story of sexual derangement, of what happens when the love impulse is forced underground, in an age when it dare not speak its name. The novel is in its way almost unutterably sad. It makes us glad that we live in comparatively happier times. Despite the fact that McCullers has these moments o ...more
Darwin8u
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Leonora Penderton feared neither man, beast, nor the devil; God she had never known."
- Reflections in a Golden Eye, Carson McCullers

description

Published in 1941, RiaGE is McCuller's second novel after The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Anthony Slide considered RiaGE one of the four great pre-1950 gay English novels (Djuna Barnes' Nightwood, Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms, and Vidal's
The City and the Pillar).

To me, it was patient, beautiful and sad. Nothing like the melodramatic movie that John Huston mad
...more
Cecily
A novella set in an army camp in the US south, presumably around 1940, when it was written, though it felt more like the 50s or 60s.

It concerns six characters (two officer couples, a servant and a conscript), each with an obsession with one of the others.

Unlike some of her books, race barely comes into it, but rank and sexuality do.

It's slow, painful, a little weird and beautiful. As with all her writing, there are literal and more metaphorical lyrical aspects to the writing (reflecting her m
...more
Melanie
Jan 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Reflections in a Golden Eye starts plainly enough, easing into the lives of a Captain, a Major, their wives and a strange, compulsive observer, a soldier portrayed part innocent child and part insidious interloper.

The story plays out calmly but at times is like a feverish dream full of nervous, fearful, desiring creatures - a mix of human and animal impressions adding to the overall surreal quality.

I am continually startled by the Carson McCullers work, and her intuitive handling of human frail
...more
Duffy Pratt
Apr 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: classic
Upon finishing this, I checked McCullers biography online to see whether she committed suicide. It turns out she didn't. Instead, she tried and failed, and somehow that is even more fitting.

I don't know if I've ever read anyone who has a both flatter and bleaker view of people. Her writing ranges from the very good to the spectacular. The people in her world are grotesques who would fit into other Southern Gothic writers books. They would be right at home in Flannery O'Connor or Faulker, for exa
...more
Puck
“In his heart there coursed a wild tirade of curses, words of love, supplications, and abuse. But in the end he turned away, still silent.”

This line perfectly sums up the novel: we follow people struggling with loneliness, isolation, and (queer) romantic feelings, but few dare to speak these feelings out loud. This can be frustrating, but then again: how often do we voice our true thoughts?

Carson McCullers excels in writing stories like “Reflections”, and the other two books I read by her
...more
Sara
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Do you ever read a novel and love it because you are thinking all the way through, “these people are just like me. I know these folks.”? Well, Carson McCullers creates exactly the opposite of that. All through this novel you are thinking, “I’m not like this. These are not folks I know.” And then, you realize, you are and they might be. Because underneath every human being alive there is a piece that feels alien to the world and a bit that never (or seldom) gets shared. Carson just knows how to p ...more
Wyndy
This morning, I wrote an erudite, detailed review for this book describing the individual characters and all their angst and complications, but somehow deleted it. Then I realized it was full of spoilers anyway, so here’s my abbreviated take-away from this dynamite book:

“‘You mean,’ Captain Penderton said, ‘that any fulfillment obtained at the expense of normalcy is wrong, and should not be allowed to bring happiness. In short, it is better, because it is morally honorable, for the square peg to
...more
Evan
[2016 review revision: This is a very short book that took me a year and a half to read, from late 2011 to spring 2013. The circumstances as to why that was the case used to be in this review, but I have now excised all of those personal effusions and retired them to my own archives. What follows is the rest of the review as it was posted in 2013:]

So, to pen any kind of decent review, can I even remember very much about this Southern gothic chamber piece featuring three mainly sexually repressed
...more
Aubrey
I might have liked this better had I not read Flannery O'Connor already, but then again, maybe not. Outbursts of violence as the result of societal repression can be a powerful theme, but it is also one so overdone that it has become predictable and calcifying in all but a few well thought out cases. As such, if the narrative and its climax consist of nothing more than White (I see the toxic masculinity turned in on itself by way of being gay, and raise you a gay-coded man of color being tossed ...more
El
Dec 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
I loved The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding. I love McCullers's minimalist writing style.

I did not love Reflections in a Golden Eye.



It seems like a good story - a true love-triangle. (Or love-square? Maybe love-trapezoid.) Taking place on an Army base in the American South we have Captain Penderton and his wife, Leonora, and Major Langdon, his sickly wife, Alison, and their houseboy, Anacleto. Then there's Private Williams who once saw Leonora nekkid and has become a bit o
...more
qtasha
I know that everybody likes The Heart is a Lonely Hunter but this small strange book is the proof of her writing chops, this book has everything. A uptight army higher up with repressed gay desires who put a cat in the mailbox, a stupid wife who don't even bother to hide her affair with her husband's army coworker who in turn has a mentally unbalanced wife cut off her nipples with garden shears An houseboy who couldn't be in the closet even if he wanted to. What a crew! this book is a look into ...more
Edward
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reflections In A Golden Eye is a powerful examination of repression and loneliness. There is something creepy and almost surreal about the six characters, whose lives are so intimately connected, and yet who are defined by an acute loneliness that manifests in peculiar and disturbing ways, which are always kept carefully hidden from each others' view. The characters and their proclivities are extravagant and bizarre, and yet the author's treatment of these is really quite subtle and beautiful - ...more
Batgrl (Book Data Kept Elsewhere)
Ebook, read online, via Open Library.

I was reading an essay which led me to wikipedia, and then, well as soon as I found this online I thought I'd just read a little, and then a little more - and then 30 pages into it I figured I should just give in and admit I'm reading the book. Which is odd, because originally I'd set out to read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

The setting is an army base in peacetime Georgia (US). For a quick version - the wikipedia page. There's a love triangle, but there's al
...more
sologdin
All desires lead to one object.

One officer is married, and has "a sad penchant for becoming enamoured of his wife's lovers" (11). He is learned, but "never in his life had had an idea in his head" (id.). He is "just as jealous of his wife as he was of her lover," feeling for him "the nearest thing to love that he had ever known" (33). The husband disliked her--so no chance of a reciprocal counter-affair--"because of her total indifference to himself" (34). He nevertheless was "so infatuated with
...more
tortoise dreams
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
On a Southern army base in the peacetime of the 1930's, all that is wrong with two couples becomes tragedy.

Book Review: Reflections in a Golden Eye is one of Carson McCullers' lesser known works, but here she puts the "gothic" in Southern Gothic with a vengeance. The tension builds from the first page. As with The Secret History we know there will be a murder -- involving six people and a horse. I liked the horse. The six characters interact, two married couples, an enlisted man, a servant. All
...more
Erik
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: woman-authored, lgbt
A haunting tale that gives meaning to the category "Southern Gothic," Carson McCullers' sophomore debut, "Reflections in a Golden Eye" is eerie, beautiful, and reverent.

A cast of characters each with their secrets and each offering a tiny glimpse into a life of another is the highlight of this book. Private Williams watches Mrs. Penderson, Mrs. Penderson secretly loves Major Langdorf, a Filipino houseboy who is the campiest of them all, and Mr. Penderson, though he cannot even identify his own l
...more
Jason Coleman
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hiltons Als called this McCullers' "most difficult and shallow novel," and he's probably not wrong. The setting—that dull army post described in the virtuoso opening paragraph—and cast of characters seem conceived to support a more substantial work; at little more than a hundred pages, the book feels hasty, like highlights from a longer book. In such a compressed narrative, the many instances of deviance and the grotesque (it's almost casually reported that one character murdered a man in his pa ...more
Greg
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
A revelation to me. Imagine, in 1941, McCullers' taking on the subject, not of 'latent homosexuality', but of a wide open sexual spectrum in which Captain Penderton may or may not have fallen into. But he dedicates his life to a high-ranking military position, to the exclusion of the rest of the world. And when another officer's wife passes, he realizes what the future holds. His choice? It's a heartbreaker. This is a sad, bizarre, beautiful Southern Gothic. It is equal in tone, atmosphere, and ...more
Matt

Overdone allegories, humid Freudian symbolism, rather drab narrative. McCullers was a great writer, but I think of this book as an oddity, like she's working out a certain variety of psychic kicks, more than anything else.
Lydia
I read this novella for my 20th century queer project, a project where I read 100+ books by queer or trans authors, I read this for the year 1941.

Less of narrative and more of an examination of every cluster of deep, dark, human desires. McCullers is a master of tension, of horror, of a slow, creeping dread. Her work reminds me a lot of Daphne du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and other gothic authors of that ilk. Her writing is watching you, as you read, examinin
...more
Morgan
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I've like almost everything McCullers has written. I only have one more novel to read of hers and I'll have read almost everything. Feels like this book is her weakest though. Her themes are there, just feels like something is missing. Maybe it's because it's about soldiers this time and not really her signature misfits. I still loved her writing.
Gregory Baird
Compelling drama, but oddly cold

With its short page count, "Reflections in a Golden Eye" is more of a novella than a novel. What is disappointing about it is that it takes about fifty pages (the majority of the novella) to get involved in the characters and the plot. It starts intriguingly enough, with the promise of a murder involving the central characters ("two officers, a soldier, two women, a Filipino, and a horse."), but McCullers' prose is so cold and distant that it makes the plot inac
...more
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1,937 followers
Carson McCullers was an American who wrote fiction, often described as Southern Gothic, that explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South.

From 1935 to 1937 she divided her time, as her studies and health dictated, between Columbus and New York and in September 1937 she married an ex-soldier and aspiring writer, Reeves McCullers. They began their married life in Charlotte,
...more

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24 likes · 14 comments
“You mean,' Captain Penderton said, 'that any fulfilment obtained at the expense of normalcy is wrong, and should not be allowed to bring happiness. In short, it is better, because it is morally honourable, for the square peg to keep scraping around the round hole rather than to discover and use the unorthodox square that would fit?'…'I don't agree” 7 likes
“Leonora Penderton feared neither man, beast, nor the devil; God she had never known.” 4 likes
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