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Back Paperback – 19 Feb 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Press; New Ed edition (19 Feb. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 186046369X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860463693
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 1.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 298,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The best writer of his time."-Rebecca West --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

"Among the finest English novels about the impact of the Second World War" Michael Dirda, Washington Post

it is 1945. Charley Summers, back from the war in Europe, is home to mourn the death of his lover Rose who lies buried in the village churchyard. Charley is a twentieth-century equivalent to the questing knight of medieval romance: a man injured in combat, searching for a rose that is both a specific young woman and a symbol of lost peace. But Charley is so haunted by the death of Rose, whose image was his guiding light as he lay wounded in a prison camp, that he begins to imagine that her half-sister Nancy is not just like Rose, but is Rose herself.

Moving, disturbing and brilliantly written, the narrative advances almost entirely through dialogue. Back is, according to Jeremy Treglown in his introduction, "Henry Green's most extended attempt to plumb the world of the hunted - and haunted". First published in 1946, it has indeed remained one of Green's most haunting, elegiac novels and one of the most enduring to have focused on the individual human tragedy of the war.

"One of the two great creative novelists of this generation...By 'creative' I mean that the development of his talent brought something completely new into the English novel and each new work of his is a creation of his peculiar art" Olivia Manning

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
There is nothing quite like the experience of reading Henry Green. His prose is so idiosyncratic and new. I've never read anyone who wrote like him before or since. It's hard to describe: it's akin to listening to a madman then slowly coming to the opinion that they're talking absolute sense. Not that his prose is hard to initially grasp, it's just different. It has different rhythms and cadences to the norm. He has a wicked vein of sly humour running through his work, and superb dialogue. The dialogue in Back is particularly good - people talk at cross purposes and refer without reference to things said paragraphs ago, as they do in normal speech. Overall this is a touching, perceptive account of a return from war - it has a hazy feel, like Charley Summer's own mind and recollections. I enjoyed it immensely, as I have all his books. I'm confident Green is the greatest British writer of this century (I've probably said that about another British writer of this century somewhere on amazon, but I really mean it about Henry Green!)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
weirdness made compelling and finally lovable 10 Sept. 2010
By Lydia - Published on
Format: Paperback
First, there IS no one who writes like Henry Green, and it is hard to describe the experience of reading him. He has his own cadences, both in words and phrasing, and in the passing of time. It is as if one has entered another universe, but one that is more firmly our own. It is not realism, except that it makes you feel piercing intense emotions that feel too real to bear.

Second, he isn't for everyone. I knew my husband wouldn't like it because the main character cannot expresses his emotions at the beginning, and cannot by the end. Also I gave my husband an outline of the plot, and he said, "But that is just too ridiculously unbelievable."

Then, just after I finished reading the book, I picked up the book my husband was reading, Roth's "American Pastoral," started reading it, and thought, wait, is this Henry Green I am reading? It sounds just like him. No doubt there are unexplored similarities between Roth and Green, but what I think was happening was that Green's voice is simply so all-encompassingly strong, that at that moment anything I picked up would have sounded like Green.

So it is great because it makes you see the world anew, I mean, that is a cliche of greatness that he does pull off, but what is it here that we see here? For me, an appreciation of the effects of war on the men caught up in it, even though the book only gives ever one small detail of the 4 years Charley has spent in a German prisoner-of-war camp. A feeling for how much confusion can be brought to us by love that doesn't work out as we would wish, and of the sheer stubbornness of the brain when it doesn't want to accept things.

It's also about how a writer can create characters out of bits and scraps, and we soon start rooting for them. But then it turns around and we see we are all just made up of bits and scraps.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Roses around the headstones 14 May 2009
By Noddy Box - Published on
Format: Paperback
Two quick but more or less final conclusions on finishing this quietly devastating English novel from 1946: You are never once allowed to forget that you are reading words intricately and even eccentrically arranged by the inimitable Henry Green. Yet the quixotically deranged character of one-legged Charley Summers is rendered so vividly and so indelibly as to make the writing appear all but invisible.
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