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on 29 April 2009
"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."

Those are the words of John Betjeman, writing for Daily Telegraph in 1956 when Every Eye was first published.

It was republished by Persephone Books a few years ago. Their edition is, of course, quite beautiful and it comes with with an introduction by Neville Baybrooke, the author's widower. He writes with such clarity about his wife and her writing and his love for her shines through. A wonderful start.

Every Eye is the story of Hatty. She is a piano teacher who has married late in life, and as she and her husband are departing for a belated honeymoon in Ibiza she receives news of her aunt's death. Her thoughts turn to the childhood and upbringing that brought her to this point.

The story moves smoothly between past and present.

Hatty never really felt at home in her own family. She had a lazy eye, and maybe that made her see the world differently.

She was a talented musician with a dream of becoming a concert pianist, but her straightened circumstances, her lack of confidence and her family's failure to understand put paid to that dream. Hatty takes the line of least resistance and settles for a quiet life.

But now, it seems, she has reached a turning point. She is thrilled by the experience of travelling across Europe and she is steadily becoming more comfortable and confident in her new life. And when she reaches Ibiza she makes a startling discovery that sheds fresh light on her own past.

Every Eye is a quiet novel with very little incident, and yet it contains so much. Isobel English's writing is flawless and you must read every single word, otherwise you will definitely miss something.

Hatty's inner life is wonderfully created, the period is vividly evoked, and places and characters are perfectly observed.

An immaculate miniature.
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on 28 March 2008
I was surprised that I enjoyed this novel so much because in a way not a great deal happens - a girl travels to Spain and looks back on her life. Essentially she presents us with her reflections which led me to reflect over my own experiences. I thoroughly recommend this quirky book which takes the story to another level.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 June 2015
I wanted to love "Every Eye" as I love all the Persephone books (the idea of them, at least!) but this one left me perplexed, a bit bored and somewhat blue. Such a tiny tome, filled with very poetic writing and sadness, so much sadness… I felt.

I couldn't really care for any of the characters (however few), it was hard to engage and proceed, but I got to the ends… And that was the best thing. Subtle, but deadly (excuse the pun).

A little enigma of the book, for me – will I ever understand why some people love it?
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on 9 August 2015
I happened across this book while looking for another (thank you Persephone Books) and I am so pleased I bought it. I won't go through the subject matter; other reviewes have already done so, other than to say the denouement is on the final page, so anyone tempted to go there will spoil to some degree the reading of this short novel. Isobel English has a seeing eye of her own and a wonderful, if sometimes complex, (rather than contrived) way of painting her scenes and exploring character which made me stop and really think about the imagery in her prose. It is not a liner novel, moving as it does between scenes in different times, but the author has managed this with great skill so that every little vignette is brought together and matters to the revelation in the final moments of the book.
Other reviewers have found the book sad. I did not find it so. The central character grows in strength and confidence as the story unwinds and becomes a much more dispassionate observer of what happiness means for her. I highly recommend this little novel, so much so that even though I know now how it ends I will be reading it again for the delight of the writing, rather than the story itself.
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on 13 October 2013
Beautifully written in a poetic style, Every Eye is a rich book full of imagery. I found it hard to read in long stints as it was quite verbose, it felt like a lot was packed into a short book.

Every Eye is the overlap of two stories, Hatty on her Ibiza honeymoon with her younger husband and a story from the past. As Hatty looks back on her life and reflects, the reader learns how her past is affecting her in the present day.

I'm not entirely sure that I understood it properly, and would benefit from another reading to fully understand all the complexities of the plot. However, I didn't warm to Hatty or her husband Stephen throughout the book and am not sure whether I will ever reread Every Eye. I will seek out further writings by Isobel English though, as reading her work reminded me of the first overpowering hit when gulping mulled wine- powerful, with a long lasting impact.

This wouldn't be a Persephone book I would particularly recommend, but the writing style was eloquent and impactive.

6/10 (Beautiful tone of the writing, marks lost as the plot had me confused)
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This is a novella that drips with sadness, regret and loss. It is ostensibly the story of Hatty, who now, in her late middle age, is married to a much younger man whose family are disappointed in his choice of her. As the couple travel across europe to the island of Ibiza, somewhere Hatty is visiting as a kind of memoriam to her recently dead aunt, who loved it there, we get the reminiscences of Hatty's life and loss.

In parts this reminded me of the sections of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway where Clarissa explores her past and her love for her old flame, Peter. It has that slight stream of consciousness quality to it and a dreaminess that means it's somehow hard to follow what's happening. I don't think I entirely understood the novel, but I did appreciate it, and it was rather beautiful in lots of ways.
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on 23 May 2009
As reviewers both on Amazon and those quoted on the book cover have said, this is a beautifully written book. For me, though, it seemed to be written by an intellectual writing in a knowingly literary style at the expense of much plot.

Hatty, the heroine, recounts her life both past and present, seamlessly crafted by Isobel English from one to the other and back again. Although Hatty seems real, the other characters remain rather shadowy.

I found I didn't really mind too much what happened to the characters, but I did enjoy the writing.

Perhaps if you particularly love reading for the sake of the beauty of the language, this book might be for you.
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