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Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas by Hollis, Matthew (2012) [Paperback]

Matthew Hollis
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (0100)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 646,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more to Thomas than Adelstrop! 23 Sep 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Hollis' book is a marvelous achievement. I have admired Thomas' poetry for years but knew remarkably little about the man beyond his literary reputation, his war-service and his background in reviewing and 'nature' writing. This book presents us with an often unsympathetic figure, largely because of his troubled family-life where he often seems surly, irascible, even psychologically brutal with his wife and children. (His struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide are sympathetically treated, but Hollis does not shy away from the awful impact his moods must have had on those closest to him. This can make for disturbing reading!) Yet Hollis explores his writing wonderfully, brilliantly contextualising it in the literary culture of the period. The Georgians, the Poetry Bookshop, The Dymock Poets, Pound, Yeats, Rupert Brooke, WH Davis and many others move in and out of focus as the narrative progresses and are fascinating in themselves. However, the key interest must be Thomas's initially hesitant movement from increasingly 'jobbing' prose to poetry. What an extraordinary burst of creativity in his last couple of years! Robert Frost's place in Thomas's life is thoroughly explored and emerges as the great formative friendship, the midwife to Thomas's emergence as a poet of great importance.

Hollis writes beautifully, with the right balance of sensitive analysis when considering the poems (this is NOT, thankfully a text book approach to the work) and he is always sympathetic, though not blinkered, about his subject. By the end, I felt I understood the work far more, albeit at the cost of admiring Thomas the man a good deal less.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book! 11 Aug 2011
This is a wonderful book and all the more remarkable for being the author's first work of non-fiction. It should be read by everyone who is interested in Edward Thomas, poetry and everyone else. Matthew Hollis has written the most plausible account yet of the last four years of ET's troubled existence. All previous attempts have been written by people who were too in love with him, too close to his family or too polite to provide a sufficiently objective account. As he valued honesty (read "I may come near loving you" for proof) above everything, ET would surely approve.
The big mystery about ET is why after so many years of reviewing and writing prose he turned to poetry. The book focuses on Robert Frost's role but goes much further than any previous writer in showing why Frost's influence was the trigger rather than the underlying cause. The truth is surely that ET had to write poetry. It was either that or "the friend" in his pocket. By 1914 his regular sources of income were drying up, the war seemed likely to determine the fates of all, the "melancholy" he had wrestled with all of his adult life had not departed, so why not have a go? He told Eleanor Farjeon "I couldn't write a poem to save my life." - how wrong can you be?
The other mystery is why he joined up. He wasn't jingoistic (see "This is no case of petty right or wrong") and he was old enough not to feel under any great pressure to go. So why did he do it? Read the book! If you're still not convinced read the poems, particularly; Aspens, Sowing, Beauty, Lob, The Owl, Light's Out, For These and Old Man and then, I promise you will want to!
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed 10 Aug 2011
A wonderful achievement from this first time biographer. Perhaps Matthew Hollis' own career as a poet gives him a particular sense of Thomas' work and of his frustrated hopes and melancholy.
This is an evocative account of the man and his circle (including the Dymock poets) and the way in which creative relationships are part of the making of a writer. It is also beautifully, yet not affectedly, written and leaves a reader with a broader sense of the world of pre-war literary Britain.
i understood much more about the subsequent history of Thomas' reputation having read Hollis' book, and I was sorry to finish it but sadder that Thomas' strange wartime death in the snow at Arras in 1917 brought his mid life blossoming to an end.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an interesting read 23 Aug 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Unlike other reviewers here I had never heard of this poet and knew nothing of, nor liked, poetry. As this was a daily deal and I wanted something different to read I thought I would give it a go. It was a very interesting book especially as it was set around the First World War. I liked the insight into the way the poetry was put together and enjoyed the poems enough to download 'The Collected Poems'. If you want a heavily academic book then this will probably not satisfy you, but if, like me, you just want an introduction into the world of poetry and an interesting read then this is it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poets made interesting 17 May 2012
I'm not a great one for poetry - even about the First World War - but this is a good, informative, engaging biography. Moreover when you consider that Thomas might be described as oversensitive, vacilating, and sickly - as well as a poet of the first order - making his story so interesting is something of an achievement. Read this book in concerted bursts over a few days abroad: a very good sign when so many volumes 'hang fire' or are finished only with effort. Recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
I learned about the existence of this book from the website of AJ Blake (Author of "Dust on the Nettles"). Read more
Published 10 days ago by Hamish McLean
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving re-inactment
The reality of the last few years of a much loved author and poet who died in the Great War, by another modern poet and author who appears to be seeking the source of the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Steve Huntley
4.0 out of 5 stars Now All roads Lead to France
Impressively researched I am particularly interested in the Dymock poets and also Ivor Gurney so it usefully filled some background for me.
Published 2 months ago by Hugh Dolding
4.0 out of 5 stars Very well researched
This biography ticks most boxes; painstaking research, clarity, characters well drawn and, most importantly, hard to put down. Well done, Mathew Hollis.
Published 4 months ago by Stanley Hedges
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Informative and poetic writing. I was interested in his associations and the story behind his poetry. Highly recommended for biographical content and writing style.
Published 5 months ago by Bluebell
5.0 out of 5 stars The Making of Edward Thomas, poet.
This is a first-rate account of the last years of Edward Thomas. After a lifetime of depression and struggle he finally came to the realisation (aided by American poet Robert... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Angela Legood
5.0 out of 5 stars This was a present for an office colleague
She reports it is excellent, but she's a real fan of Edward Thomas, so I think she would have enjoyed it in any circumstances.
Published 10 months ago by Adrian Stear
4.0 out of 5 stars Not an ideal husband
I've been reading enthusiastic reviews of this book ever since it was published in 2012 - from these I believed it to be a close examination of the development of the friendship... Read more
Published 10 months ago by christine a
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Have always enjoyed his poetry but new little of his early life and connection with Robert Frost- really well written
Published 11 months ago by Pamela McCallum
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting background to the man himself
A carefully-researched biography. It is well written, giving great insight into Thomas's character. What a patient woman his wife must have been!
Published 11 months ago by Mike Evans
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