I first heard of Isobel English’s 1956 novella Every Eye when Emily at Evening All Afternoon wrote about it so beautifully. I knew based on her description of “people are icebergs to one another, with only a tiny portion of their vast internal continents perceptible at any given time,” and that “even between people who imagine themselves quite close, or who society expects to be close, there are still times of great emotional distance” I had to read it. I did love this aspect of the novella, but Emily writes so well about Hatty and her relationships that you should read her assessment and consider it seconded.
I’ll shift my focus just a bit to address a closely related topic: the way Hatty sees the world. The importance of vision is clear from the title; also, Hatty was born and grew up with a lazy eye that she hid in the shadows of strategically placed hat brims until a wealthy lover paid for her to have an operation that fixed it. In a book about perception, a large part of Hatty’s distance from the world and the other people in it is the fact that her perception has always been slightly off.
This manifests itself in several ways, including a certain synaesthetic bent. Hatty reminisces about a shopping trip she took with her mother as a teenager, before her uncle’s wedding. Her mother, complaining about her aunt-to-be, tells Hatty that “There are some people in this world who do not know the ropes.” Hatty is immediately taken on a mental journey:
And from there my mind, in the gray-felted stillness of this hat department, with the distant sunlight filtering through the netted windows, had been suddenly flooded with vaguely nautical feelings. A certain release, like a ray of
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