THE EYE IN THE DOOR by Pat Barker

THE EYE IN THE DOOR

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Barker's Regeneration (1992) was a fine novelistic reconstruction of the psychiatric mission to heal British officers damaged by World War I horrors; this equally impressive companion volume investigates personal and societal breakdown in the war's final stages. London, April 1918. Haig has issued an order to ``fight on to the end.'' Civil liberties are being eroded, with pacifists and homosexuals the scapegoats. A woman pacifist, Beattie Roper, is doing time for ``plotting'' to kill Prime Minister Lloyd George, convicted on the evidence of Spragge, a government informer. There have been strikes in munition factories; their organizer, Patrick MacDowell, is on the run. Caught in the middle between the government and its ragtag opposition is Lieutenant Billy Prior. The working-class officer and ``temporary gentleman'' (class differences permeate the novel), last seen as one of neurologist Rivers's most difficult patients, now works for British Intelligence. His loyalties are divided; Mac was his closest childhood friend, while Beattie was a surrogate mother, but overarching those affections are his ties to the men in the trenches (``Picard clay was a powerful glue''). The agent provocateur Spragge is his one clear external enemy; his internal enemies are still legion. He starts experiencing fugue states (blackouts) that increasingly hamper his ability to hunt for Mac and battle Sprague until, undergoing more therapy, he and Rivers discover their childhood origin. Barker ingeniously meshes Prior's private demons with his public sleuthing in a fast-moving narrative that dazzles with its profusion of memorable cameos and encounters. Regeneration was dominated by the all too real Craiglockhart hospital and therapeutic practice; this work is dominated by the wholly fictional, marvelously complex Prior and is more satisfying novelistically. Together they form a remarkable achievement.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1994
ISBN: 0-525-93808-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994




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