Showing 1 - 4 of 4 annotations associated with Barker, Pat
- Field, Steven
Summary:The Eye in the Door is the second volume in Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy (the first and third volumes, Regeneration and The Ghost Road are also annotated in this database). It continues the story of Dr. William Rivers and the soldiers he treats for shell shock, what we today would call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in World War I era Britain. The action has now shifted from Craiglockhart War Hospital, near Edinburgh, to London; and while Rivers remains a primary character, seeing patients now at a London clinic, this volume focuses on Rivers’ relationship with Billy Prior, an officer who was treated at Craiglockhart after a service-related nervous breakdown.
Billy Prior, released from service on the Front and now serving on “home duty,” is working in the Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Munitions, a domestic information-gathering and surveillance unit. England, on wartime footing, is rife with paranoia and conspiracy theories, and the primary objects of state surveillance are two groups of people felt to be disloyal or untrustworthy: conscientious objectors, or “conchies,” and homosexuals, who are seen as both abnormal and subversive. The state is unremitting in its hounding and pursuit of these two groups, and is in fact “the eye in the door,” always watching and ready to pounce.
Although Billy is an officer and has a position in the surveillance apparatus, he is living a double life, and is doubly at risk in this environment. He is bisexual; the book opens with him failing to complete the seduction of a young woman and promptly thereupon having a liaison with a fellow officer whose wife and children are out of town. This officer, who also works in the Ministry, has been vaguely threatened about his association with the presumed network of homosexual subversives. In addition, while Billy is not a pacifist, he has friends from his childhood in working-class northern England who are conscientious objectors. These friends may or may not have participated in terrorist activities, are either currently in jail or wanted by the police, and are no surer than Billy is as to exactly whose side he is on.
Prior plays a dangerous double game, attempting to use his position in the government to help his old friends, and continuing treatment with Dr. Rivers, as his past psychological traumas continue to intrude upon, and complicate, his personal and professional lives, building to a powerful conclusion.
- Duffin, Jacalyn
In 1917, the poet Siegfried Sassoon protests the war in a London newspaper. He is saved from court martial by a military friend who argues successfully for his transfer to the Craiglockhart War Hospital where he comes under the care of psychiatrist, William Rivers. Sassoon is not sick, but he and his doctor both know that the line between sanity and insanity is blurred, especially for a homosexual and in a time of war.
The other patients, however, are gravely wounded in spirit if not body; sometimes they are tormented by uncomprehending parents and wives. Rivers’ efforts to unravel their nightmares, revulsions, mutism, stammering, paralysis, and anorexia begin to shake his own psychic strength and lead him to doubt the rationality--if not the possibility--of restoring them to service. He yearns for his pre-war research in nerve regeneration, the quixotic enterprise that serves as a metaphor for his clinical work.
- Belling, Catherine
Nick and Fran move into an old house with their family: Miranda, thirteen, Nick's daughter from a previous marriage (her mother has been hospitalized with depression); eleven-year-old Gareth, Fran's son (who was almost aborted); and a toddler, Jasper, the child of both. Fran is pregnant again. Nick tries to hold them together as a family, but must also take care of Geordie, his grandfather, who is dying of cancer at the age of 101.
Geordie believes that what's killing him is a bayonet wound he received in World War I. As his disease progresses, the old man relives the war, especially the battle in which his brother died, with increasing vividness. After Geordie's death, Nick learns that in the battle he had killed his wounded brother who may, he thinks, otherwise have survived.
Geordie tells the story in an interview with a historian working on memory and war, and confesses that he hated his brother. She gently tells him that "a child's hatred" is different, but he--like the novel itself--refuses to see this as mitigation. Geordie's tale resonates both with what Nick learns about the house he bought--in 1904 the older children of the family living there were believed to have murdered their two-year-old sibling--and with Gareth and Miranda's resentment of Jasper, which has near-fatal consequences.
- Coulehan, Jack
This is the third novel in Pat Barker's trilogy about a group of shell shocked soldiers in World War I who are treated by Dr. William Rivers at Craiglockhart War Hospital. The protagonists include historical characters like Dr. Rivers (1864-1922), an eminent psychiatrist and anthropologist, and the poets, Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) and Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), as well as fictional creations, like Lieutenant Billy Prior, a working class man elevated to the position of British officer.
As The Ghost Road begins, Prior has been cured of shell shock and is preparing to return to the front in France. Rivers takes care of his patients and his invalid sister, amid memories of his experience ten years earlier on an anthropological expedition to Melanesia (Eddystone Island). He befriended Nijiru, the local priest-healer who took Rivers on his rounds to see sick villagers and also to the island's sacred Place of the Skulls.
Rivers entertains very un-British thoughts about the morality of these headhunting people, and about the power of symbolic healing. As these thoughts intrude upon his consciousness, Rivers is himself in the process of curing by suggestion a soldier with hysterical paralysis. Meanwhile, Billy Prior returns to the front. It is the autumn of 1918 and the last inhuman spasms of the war are in progress. In a futile battle that takes place a few days before the Armistice, Billy and his friend Wilfred Owen are killed.