Borrowed Eyes cover.jpg

Borrowed Eyes

Picador, 2002


At Bangka Island, Indonesia, during the Second World War, Japanese soldiers ordered twenty-two Australian nurses and one civilian woman to wade into the sea, where they were machine-gunned down. There were thought to be no survivors. But the bullet went through one woman and she lived.

Vivien Carmichael was later interned in a POW camp for the remainder of the war. In the camps a friendship develops between her and Martin, a Dutch boy, whom she teaches to draw. Set in the aftermath of the war, Borrowed Eyes moves between past and present as it explores loss, the legacy of brutality, and the ambivalent but unique intimacy formed between two people struggling to rebuild their lives.


Borrowed Eyes was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and the Dobbie Award for a first manuscript.



Borrowed Eyes is a complex book – a layering of fiction, history, biography, diary entries, courtroom transcripts, all undercut by an exploration of a father-daughter relationship. … Beudel, a fabulous storyteller, has [created] a novel of exceptional knowledge and intelligence.

—    Jenny Digby, Australian Book Review


Borrowed Eyes is assured in its plotting, leisurely in its pace and written with flair.

–      Peter Pierce, Herald Sun


The author … insightfully examines the shift in perception of domestic space after living in a war camp. … Tiny details of wartime life – the slant of light in a camp, the foliage of the jungle – are lyrically described …

–      Bronwyn Rivers, Sydney Morning Herald


Beudel eschews the gothic for a muted, sombre reflection on the aftermath of war … the value of Borrowed Eyes lies in its quiet paean to life, to its dogged persistence of living in the present while trying to live with the past.

–      ­Thuy On, The Age


This is a truly remarkable novel…

–      Australian Bookseller & Publisher


Borrowed Eyes is intelligent, elegant and persuasive.

–      Paul Genoni, Westerly