I am so excited to start the new year with another Persephone title.
Hattie is a shy and awkward girl who is unsure of herself even into young adulthood. She was born with an eye that turns in and what she views as a gross, physical deformity harms her self esteem and her ability to connect with other people in her life. Hattie’s father died when she was very young, so she is raised by her mother and her father’s brother, Uncle Otway and his wife Aunt Cynthia.
The narrative moves back and forth between two distinct periods of time in Hattie’s life. When the book opens she is a thirty-five year old woman, recently married to a younger man and they are about to go on a honeymoon to Ibiza. Hattie is acutely aware of her husband’s age and mentions it several times throughout the narrative. Age and its effect on a relationship are a consistent theme throughout the book and something that Hattie dwells on. As Hattie and her husband are traveling from England to the Mediterranean she reflects back on the first real relationship she had with a man named Jasper. Hattie meets Jasper at a party when she is in her early twenties and doesn’t realize, at first, that he has romantic feelings for her. She doesn’t think any man would want a woman with a deformed eye.
There are a few difficulties that Hattie must face in her relationship with Jasper. He is many years older than Hattie and is actually a peer and an old friend of her father’s. He has gray hair and sagging skin but he seems to truly care for her so she decides to overlook his advancing age. But Jasper and Hattie’s relationship also stumbles because of the interference of her Aunt Cynthia. Whenever Hattie asks Aunt Cynthia for advise her aunt is very negative about the relationship; Cynthia seems to have some kind of insight into Jasper’s character that she will not fully share with Hattie.
Since Hattie is reminiscing about her relationship with Jasper on her honeymoon, it seems that she cannot fully enjoy herself or relax. She is uncomfortable for most of the trip and doesn’t enjoy the time with her new husband. Hattie’s skepticism and negativity stay with her at a time when she should be the happiest. It is interesting that she occupies the position of much younger woman and much older woman in her relationships; neither part suits her or makes her happy.
In the end, Isobel English makes the point that it really doesn’t matter what age two people are when they fall in love. Hattie’s husband is a calming force in her life and he doesn’t care if her eye was ever deformed or what her previous relationships were like. If there is kindness and caring and tenderness in a relationship then age is irrelevant.
About the Author:
Isobel English, the pseudonym of June Braybrooke (1920-94), wrote little but what she published was of outstanding quality. ‘Sometimes, but not often, a novel comes along which makes the rest of what one has to review seem commonplace. Such a novel is Every Eye,’ John Betjeman said in the Daily Telegraph on its first publication.