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A Very English Hero: The Making of Frank Thompson Hardcover – 2 Aug 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (2 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408802430
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408802434
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 489,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A very moving account of the all-too-brief life of a warrior-poet (Antony Beevor)

Intensely absorbing, steeped in human interest and peppered with outlandish characters ... Thomson's niece is quoted as saying that this account of his death unites him more firmly with the common stream of humanity, "where people are still being shot in ditches every day". Conradi's inspiring book persuades us that its unassuming, generous-hearted hero might have agreed (The Sunday Times)

Impeccably researched ... A fine description of the biographer's role, and generous quotations from Frank Thompson's letter and poems recreate his bulky, restless, energetic presence. But it is Conradi's own more subtle presence that locks the reader into the narrative ... A pensive, moving and very personal book (Frances Wilson, Observer)

An elegy for a lost generation, and a fascinating social and political history of a peculiar period in our recent past ... it's impossible to put down Conradi's impressive and moving account of Thompson's life without a feeling of regret. The figure who emerges from these pages is engaging, passionate and noble ... he was the epitome of a rare and precious type of distinctly English hero **** (Simon Griffith, Mail on Sunday)

[An] excellent, absorbing biography ... Mr Conradi tells the true story, movingly and well ... He convincingly portrays an attractive, brilliant and courageous personality, an intellectual with a heart who loved laughter, an idealist who merits the title of this book (Economist)

[A] magnificent and tragic biography (Jewish Chronicle)

Moving and gripping, told with great lucidity and sympathy ... a story of heroic times and hopes (Margaret Drabble)

He has painted a compelling portrait of a generation that is slipping from memory into history as irreversibly as that which went into the war in 1914 ... a generous and perceptive rescue of a personality and talent that Thompson's friends could never forget ... [a] moving portrait (Spectator)

Inspiring (The Sunday Times 'Must Reads')

Excellent (Independent)

Frank Thompson's life is extraordinarily well documented in his voluminous correspondence, poetry and diaries and in those of his family and friends. With his habitual diligence, Peter Conradi creates a vivid image of his world, at home, at Oxford and at war (Jane Shilling, Scotsman)

Conradi writes well and gives is a judicious and balanced portrait of the age. Frank Thompson would have appreciated that (Literary Review)

Book Description

An untold story of love, idealism and courage in the Second World War

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I heard of a new book on SOE operations in faraway Bulgaria, and when I looked at the section of the book I found it shallow, limited and most confusing. On going back to the beginning I discovered myself uncovering or undressing a matrioska, the relevant stages of a character within a book leading to a glorious climax or an abyss.

The first section is a traditional family history of the Thompsons. Father, EJ, a missionary, author and poet, in India, who meets Theodosia Jessup, the bright, independent minded daughter of US missionaries in Syria during his Great War service. Both sides of the family appear to have gone native, personally close to the pioneers of national independence: whether TE Lawrence, or the Nobel Prize poet, Rabindranath Tagore, Gandhi, and Nehru. Their two sons, WF or Frank, the principal protagonist, and EP (known until his father's death by his second name Palmer - later became a Marxist historian and author of the classic study The Making of the English Working class The Making of the English Working Class (Penguin History)) carrying on the flame of rebellion, were furthermore strongly influenced by modern ideas and the events of the 1920s and 30s; both were attracted by the underdog.

The largest and core part covers Frank Thompson's brief stay at Oxford; his great political activity during the post Munich by-election, in 1939; his entry into the CP - claimed by his new flame, Iris Murdoch, to have been by her own making, though her latest biographer Iris Murdoch: A Life: The Authorized Biography, Peter J.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Anne Sebba on 30 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This profoundly moving meditation on a young man prepared to live and die for a cause should be required reading for all politicians who contemplate sending British soldiers to war as well as all mothers and anyone interested in the history of the last century. Frank Thompson may have been extraordinary - gifted and handsome, a scholar and poet as well as a courageous leader at a terrifyingly young age - but his story is emblematic of a generation who believed they had to fight and defeat Hitler. He died after brutal torture at the hands of Bulgarian fascists at 23 in 1944. To read his life story and to understand the family, school, country and culture that made him a Very English Hero is a powerful experience. Ultimately, for all its tragedy and desperate sense of waste, it's an uplifting tale told with enormous sympathy by Peter Conradi.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Boddington on 14 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Conradi has in effect produced his third volume of the Frank and Iris trilogy. This started with his magisterial life of Iris Murdoch, followed by Writer at War, a fascinating collection including her wartime letters to Frank Thompson. This new work contains the careful research and comprehensive story of a young man who was perhaps her greatest friend at Oxford before the War and who joined up as a volunteer in 1939 and found his was into the special forces who were parachuted into the Balkans. There he fought with the partisans and was killed in 1944 in Bulgaria, where he has become a special war hero, with a town named Thomsun in his honour. A fascinating story and a great read.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John Corsellis on 31 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Being an admirer of Conradi's biography of Iris Murdoch, I knew what to expect, and I was not disappointed. This is the meticulously researched biography of a man who, although he died - was murdered - at the age of 23 towards the end of World War II with little apparently achieved during his lifetime, still was deemed sufficiently notable to be included in the ranks of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, primarily for the promise shown in his poetry. The book richly deserves the enthusiastic endorsements of Antony Beevor and Margaret Drabble.

Frank Thompson was a complex character: with effortless charm, a brilliant linguist, often hopelessly drunk so that it was feared that he was heading towards alcoholism, intellectually gifted but all too easily taken in by the fashionable communist line of the time, his outstanding quality was his determination to experience and enjoy life to the full. If he had survived the war, would he in fact have married Iris Murdoch? An explosive combination.

Conradi's moving and sympathetic portrait of Frank amounts, however, to only a fraction of the book. He also gives us entrancing portraits of Frank's extraordinary parents, brilliant brother, bizarre family life and many other colourful characters of the Oxford of the time: and recreates vividly those forcing-houses of the intelligentsia in the 1930s, Oxford's Dragon School, then Winchester College with its philistinism but covert encouragement of individualists to think for themselves, and the inevitable New College Oxford. Add to this lively descriptions of Frank's relations with, and influence on, Iris Murdoch during his life and after his death, and his colourful career in the Army, including the mysterious "private armies", Phantom and SOE, and the reader has to concede that he has been provided with more than his money's worth.
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