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A passionate prodigality: Fragments of autobiography [Unknown Binding]

Guy Chapman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 281 pages
  • Publisher: MacGibbon & Kee; 2nd ed edition (1965)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0000CMK8Y
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,596,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great War - great book 7 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellent read for those wishing to know about the realities of war. I would recommend it to anyone studying that era, especially at this time of year.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding and poignant piece of History 29 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback
This book is more relevant and thought provoking than even seminal works such as Journey's End, because the author lived through everything himself and never seeks to glamourise or sensationalise War. He writes about it as it was for him; Good, bad, sad, humorous, boring, intense, pitiful. He covers every condition and emotion that so many young men must have encountered, often never having the chance or will to relay them to their family and friends. It is an inspiring piece and from a personal point of view poignant beyond belief as it covers (on p55) the sad death of my Great Uncle from British mortar rounds blown off target as he lay in a forward observation post - an all too regular occurance. Guy Chapman's book is a must read for any serious scholar of The Great War.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Western Front: No Place for Man or Beast 25 Jan 2012
By David R. Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
William Boyd, the English author, explains why the First World War "continues to preoccupy us. It was a conflict between 19th - century armies equipped with 20th-century weapons - hence the unprecedented carnage." (The cavalry charge in the movie War Horse provides a vivid demonstration of his point..) Boyd made the statement to explain why he felt called upon to write "Waiting for Sunrise" his soon to be published novel, his third centered on the First World War. (For the full text of his piece, see the Opinion Section of the New York Times, for January 22, 2012).

Guy Chapman, then a young British officer in the Royal Fusiliers, the London regiment, served on the Western Front from July, 1915, to the end of the war. His was a new battalion, "almost entirely amateur." By the Armistice in November, 1918, just under eight hundred men including thirty-two officers had been killed, "almost the exact combat strength of an infantry battalion." In addition, 1500 were wounded. At the time Chapman wrote the book (in the early 1930's), there were only 150 survivors.

Chapman's clear-headed and even-handed (but not impassionate) eye witness accounts of battle after battle are based on the journal he kept from the beginning. He was no ordinary observer. His rank and duties allowed him to see far more than most and his pre-war university education empowered him to see the war through a literate prism that enriches his work on page after page. The account describes the battles fought by his battalion in sobering detail and provides a thorough account of the never ending horror of trench warfare. Here's a sample:

"The enemy shelled the ridge without relief. Day and night, hour after hour, heavy explosions rocked our neighborhood. Northward ran a trench. It was choked with dead. From the marks on the shoulders and collars, three divisions at least must have been here. They lay slung carelessly on top of each other, sprawled in obscene attitudes . . . . my eye caught something white and shining. I stooped. It was the last five joints of a spine. There was nothing else, no body, no flesh. . . . . Indeed the place overawed one. We descended to primal man. No washing or shaving here; and the demands of nature answered as quickly as possible in the handiest and deepest shell-hole." Fawcett Crest edition, 1967. p. 152.

In the preface, Chapman describes the approach he took to writing the book as one "with myself both as protagonist and chorus." Chapman goes on to say "I was preoccupied with an attachment, the sentiment of belonging to a living entity and, of course, its death." He also states "that I have tried to illuminate . . . the enormous fascination of war, the repulsion and attraction, the sharpening of awareness..."

Remarkably, Chapman waited until the early 1930's to write the book. In typical British manner, Chapman understates his own role; he is a soft-spoken protagonist, but he is an eloquent chorus, etching for the reader the courage, the fortitude, the gallows humor and the pluck of the men of the Royal Fusiliers. Any soldier of any army would be fortunate to have such an able and sympathetic memoirist. Their prodigality has been richly marked.

End Note. "A Passionate Prodigality" has long been out of print. But it is easy enough to track down. addall.com lists a dozen or more acceptable used copies for under $5.00 (plus shipping. One caveat. Chapman wrote this book with a knowledgeable English readership in mind. His extensive use of military abbreviations for battalion officers left me baffled. I tried and failed to locate a table setting them out. Perhaps you'll have better luck.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the top 5 books about WW1 15 Dec 2012
By Marcus Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is one of the best written of all the WW1 books. As good as Graves, Blunden, Junger and Manning. It has the subtlety of a novel as well as the convincing recreation needed for autobiography. It deserves to be much better known and more widely read.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Memoir of the Great War 7 Nov 2008
By Patrick Odaniel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a marvelous memoir by a soldier of the Royal Fusiliers from 1914 to 1920 who went on to become the Professor of Modern History at Leeds University. His prose speaks for itself:

The attack was to be launched at streak of dawn, 4.25; and at that moment a wild racket was once more loosed into the void. Once more the curtain of darkness was changed to a whirling screen in which flaming clusters, red, orange and gold, dropped and died; and dun smoke, illuminated by explosions, drifted away greyish white. Once more red and green rockets called frantically for aid. Once more eyes stared into the impenetrable cataract, vainly trying to pick out familiar outlines. The enemy's barrage joined the din. Black columns of smoke stormed up in the foreground. And through it all came wave on wave of the malicious chitter of machine guns.

Yes, this is a forgotten work. Yes, it is out of print. But go seek it out and become one of the few, the happy band of brother readers.
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