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Every Eye

by Isobel English
Persephone book no:

17 18 19


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PREFACE BY NEVILLE BRAYBROOKE

144pp
ISBN 9781903155066


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 in 1956.

An unusual and telling example of the 1950s modernist novel, moreover one with a spiritual bent, Every Eye is about a girl growing up to what could have been unhappiness but for her marriage to a carefree young(er) man. Her unsympathetic family have made her feel awkward about every aspect of life, and she has also felt like an outsider due to having a squint. But she manages to make a career by teaching the piano and then, on holiday in France, meets her soon-to-be husband. As she travels south by train to Ibiza with him she surveys her past life and unravels a mystery. Hence The Tablet's comment: 'This novel is a marvellous discovery. You will want to reread it immediately in the light of its astonishing final paragraph.'

Muriel Spark wrote: 'The late Isobel English was an exceptionally talented young novelist of the mid-1950s. Every Eye is one of her most successful and sensitively written books, a romantic yet unsentimental story of a young woman's intricate relationships of family and love, intensely evocative of the period, remarkable in its observations of place and character.' 

Endpaper

The fabric is from the 1956 'Iberia' range; the shapes are an image of a rocky landscape, while the bright yellow makes an implicit contrast with the grey of England.

Picture Caption

'Ibiza Landscape' by Edward Wolfe, 1953


Read What Readers Say

Beryl Bainbridge, ‘The Telegraph’

I have just started ‘Every Eye’ by Isobel English. It is perfect holiday reading, a beautiful account of a young woman looking back on her life while on honeymoon in Spain… The quality of Isobel English’s writing is incredible.

Wall Street Journal

Words like self-effacing, self-critical and perfectionist only begin to describe this remarkably gifted, all but forgotten British writer whose fiction has been likened to that of Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Spark and Anita Brookner, all of whom admired her work. Although Ms English may have some of Ms Bowen’s deft insight, a touch of Ms Spark’s wry humour and Ms Brookner’s sensitivity to nuance, she has a finely wrought yet cauterising style that is all her own. A good place to sample it is ‘Every Eye’ (1956), Ms English’s fine second novel… Beyond its literary merits, which are considerable, ‘Every Eye’ provides a wonderful opportunity for American readers to become acquainted with the entrancing voice of a truly original writer.

Radhika’s Reading Retreat

Sight is a major theme explored in ‘Every Eye’ both literally and figuratively. In her youth, Hatty struggles with a “lazy eye” which causes it to turn inward. It remains a pain point in her relationship with her mother. And yet, figuratively, it also means that Hatty is unable to fathom the nuances of what she is actually seeing. Overall I thought this was an excellent novel. Isobel English’s prose is subtle and elegant with keen insights and there are some marvellous pieces of travel writing to sink into, all packed into a compact novella of barely 100 pages. I devoured ‘Every Eye’ within a couple of days.

Categories: Abroad Love Story Mothers Young Love

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