Daily Archives: December 21, 2008

Eye in the Door – Book Review


It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognize the thoroug and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both…

– from The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by R.L. Stevenson –

The second novel in Pat Barker’s WWI trilogy – The Eye in the Door – is all about duality. Set in the spring of 1918 with Britain fearing defeat at the hands of Germany, the book centers around the British government’s effort to find scapegoats to blame in the guise of pacifists and homosexuals.  Barker uses the historic trial of Maud Allan vs. Pemberton Billing as the central event around which the plot weaves. The trial was a sham of sorts – with the lead Justice losing control over the court and the star defense witness for Billing being Harold Spencer – a lunatic who was obsessed with ‘women who had hypertrophied and diseased clitorises, and therefore could be satisfied only by bull elephants.

Do you know we actually sat in dug-outs in France and talked about that trial? The papers were full of it, I think it was the one thing that could have made me glad I was out there, I mean, for God’s sake, the Germans on the Marne, five thousand prisoners taken and all you read in the papers is who’s going to bed with whom and are they being blackmailed? God. – from The Eye in the Door, page 221-

In this second novel, Barker brings back Billy Prior who is working for the Ministry of Munitions (having been unable to return to the fighting in France due to uncontrolled asthma). Billy’s role of government “spy” to uncover pacifists and homosexuals conflicts with his own confused identity – he has a girlfriend, but engages in homosexual relationships. In addition to Billy, Siegfried Sassoon (a poet and war hero) and Dr. Rivers (noted psychiatrist) also make a return to the pages of this sequel.

Thematically, Barker focuses on the paranoia rampant in British society during this time in history. The notion of duality is played out for each character – with Billy having unexplained blackouts where his alter ego carries on without his input; as well as the disassociation of Sassoon’s personality (pacifist vs. military officer).

Siegfried had always coped with the war by being two people: the anti-war poet and pacifist; the bloodthirsty, efficient company commander. – from The Eye in the Door, page 233 –

Even Dr. Rivers suffers from a conflict with the two sides of his personality and begins to question whether the integration of self is advisable.

Perhaps, contrary to what was usually supposed, duality was the stable state; the attempt at integration, dangerous. – from The Eye in the Door, page 235 –

The Eye in the Door is a complex, psychological novel about the impact of war on the minds of soldiers. But it also goes deeper to explore the idea of the dual nature of an individual. This is a dark novel which can be dry and difficult to read at times. Barker’s writing is good, her characters are complicated…and yet I felt myself drifting at times.

For those readers who enjoy historical fiction which is also deeply philosophical, this is a novel worth reading. I should also add a cautionary note that there is some graphic sex described in the novel which may be offensive to some readers.


Sunday Salon – December 21, 2008

Sunday Salon

December 21, 2008


Good afternoon, fellow readers! It is definitely looking more like Christmas around here. We have had about a foot of new snow in the last week, and today is mixed snow and sleet (with predictions for up to 6 more inches of snow by tomorrow).

I got a late start on reading today as I was catching up on email and blog posts; and then made a home health visit to one of my patients who lives near me. But, I’ve settled in to the afternoon now and am just about ready to get on with reading The Eye in the Door, by Pat Barker. This is the second book in her WWI trilogy and I should finish it today. Barker writes well, but I don’t think this novel is as good as Regeneration which I finished earlier this week (read my review). I hope to complete the last book in the trilogy before Christmas…and then I plan on reading something quick and a little less ‘heavy.’

After I finish The Eye in the Door, I will be only TWO BOOKS away from my goal of 100 books for the year.

It is not too late to put your name in for my giveaway of Jan Brett’s wonderful childrens book The Wild Christmas Reindeer. To get a chance to win, email me at bloggiveaway@aol.com with the word “SANTA” in the subject line. I’m closing the contest on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 23rd and will draw the winner on Christmas Eve.

For those of you who celebrate the Christmas season… MERRY CHRISTMAS! If you are celebrating other holidays this month, I wish you the joy of the season. But,  wherever you are  I hope you are warm and enjoying a good book.

Blog Awards

kreativblogaward Many thanks to Jenn at Should Be Reading for nominating my blog A Novel Challenge as the MOST ORGANIZED. This was especially timely since I have been feeling pretty DISorganized of late! Jenn is one of the most thoughtful bloggers out there…

This award deals with values we deem important in others. So now it is up to me to decide on six values that are important to me, six things I don’t support, and nominate six bloggers.

Six Qualities I Value in Others:

  1. Humor
  2. Generosity of Spirit
  3. Creativity
  4. Honesty
  5. Empathy
  6. Open Mindedness

Six Qualities I Find Hard To Tolerate in Others:

  1. Rudeness
  2. Cruelty
  3. Narcissism
  4. Bigotry
  5. Arrogance
  6. Rigidity in Thought

Six Bloggers to Award:

Raych of Books I Done Read for her unparalleled humor. I adore her book reviews  which are always well thought out and funny.

Natasha from Maw Books Blog for her generosity of spirit.  I am still in awe of her Darfur fund drive earlier this year.  She is one of those people who always seems to be giving to others – a truly generous spirit.

Eva from Evaberry for her creativity in photography. I have been reading Eva’s blog for a long, long time and I love her simple photos which capture nature and her animals with such skill. Looking at one of Eva’s photos is like reading an entire story in one big gulp.

Helen from Margaret and Helen for her honesty. You may not always agree with what this 80-something year old blogger has to say, but you can’t fault her honesty (and humor).  I discovered this blog only a few months ago, and I admit that it makes me smile more times than not. (I also admire Helen’s tenacity to learn blogging – and also her ability to just crush ageism!).

Amy at My Friend Amy for her empathy. Amy just exudes empathy for others on her blog. I could have also awarded her for generosity of spirit. I love that she remains open to other people’s thoughts and differences and really tries to understand others.

S. Krishna at S. Krishna’s Books for her open mindedness. This blogger reads a wide variety of literature from all over the world and I can always count on her open and honest reviews. I love her thoughtful posts.

There are many other blogs I read regularly (over 300!) which I could give some of these awards to as well…many times I do not do these memes because I cannot bear to leave anyone out!


christmas-spirit-award Thank you to Kailana of The Written Word (and one of the founders of the Blog Advent Tour) who awarded me the Christmas Spirit Award.

“Rules” for this award are:

  • You must be a true Christmas lover to receive this award.
  • The person to whom you give the award must also be in love with Christmas.
  • Link back to the person who gave you the award.
  • List 5 things that you love about Christmas. If you can’t limit it to 5 things, then keep going till you run out of space!
  • Pass the award along to as many people as you like. That can be 1 or 50. It’s up to you! But keep the Christmas cheer going!
  • Let your recipients know that you have tagged them by leaving them a comment.

Here are the five things I love about Christmas:

  1. Music – I love to play all my Christmas CDs!
  2. Cookies – Every year I make my grandmother’s Swedish Christmas cookies…and I love to go visiting and try everyone else’s favorite cookies for the season.
  3. Pulling out all the Decorations – especially my Santa Collection
  4. Giving Gifts – I love buying presents for people!
  5. Sense of Community – I wish the sense of community we see at Christmas would continue year ’round.
  6. Cold, Winter Weather – I know we get this after Christmas…but something about snow at Christmas makes it extra special.

Here are the bloggers I’m awarding the Christmas Spirit Award to:

Trish at Ashley’s Journal – Here is a person who has the Christmas Spirit YEAR ‘ROUND. She is such an inspiration to me; and reminds me of what is truly important.

Kim at Daisy Cottage – Just look at her fabulous decorating and tell me she doesn’t have the Christmas spirit!!

AND OF COURSE, all the wonderful bloggers participating in the Blog Advent Tour this year. Please go read their posts and experience the joy of the season!