Billy Prior, who was a major character in the first book of the trilogy, Regeneration, now takes the reigns of the protagonist in the second book, The Eye in the Door. It is 1918 and Billy now works for the Ministry of Munitions. Billy is having some major slips in time and they seem to be getting longer in duration. He visits Rivers, who was the protagonist in Regeneration and Billy’s second personality makes an appearance. This is my favourite part in the novel. Much the same as the first novel Barker weaves fact and fiction to bind together an extremely interesting narrative. The facts with this novel revolve around a fabricated conspiracy to assassinate Lloyd George by Poison. We are taken into the world of the pacifists and the horrific torture and conditions they were subjected to if caught by the Ministry of Munitions spies. This is where the character of Billy Prior becomes so interesting, he has a foot in both camps. He has friends who are pacifists and deep down he is sympathetic to their cause, but he is also committed to his job and cannot shirk his responsibility. He is torn, and maybe this has something to do with the schizophrenia, although it seems to have been formed in the trenches. Barker also relies on history to touch on subjects such as class and homosexuality. The reference to a Black book containing 47000 names of homosexuals is purported to be in the hands of a German Prince and a British spy claims it will be used to create anarchy and unrest in England. We must remember this is 1917 and homosexuality was a crime. So just the rumour of such a book, especially considering there were some very high-level names said to be in it, could cause all sorts of damage. Barker shows us an England, that in hindsight you would expect from a country that is locked in an unpopular interminable war in a foreign land in this era, that is in chaos. You have the conscientious objectors, you have the pacifists, regular and militant, you have the spies and police tracking them down. You have enemy spies sowing discontent. Major resources are channelled into the war effort, food rationed, manpower, vital in the early twentieth century, severely depleted. I like the fact that Barker has stayed with the same format with this novel, using historical events and characters again, and it has the same feel of the first book. In my opinion Regeneration is the better of the two novels but this book is still a great read. 4 Stars.
top of page
bottom of page