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Wilfred Owen : a Biography Hardcover – 1975

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Enlightening look into the workings of a poet's mind. 21 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Anyone with an interest in the Great War and/or the poet Wilfred Owen will probably prosper from the reading of this book. Generally the book is an even and unbiased account of the social and poetic development of young Wilfred. Jon Stallworthy does an admirable job tracking Owen from a dreamy and slightly pompous school boy with an itch to be a famous poet into the man who is responsible for such works as: Anthem for Doomed Youth, Dulce Et Decorum Est, and Strange Meeting. The book also hosts a variety of photograghs featuring Owen, his friends, and family.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A very good biography 14 Jun 2001
By Guillermo Maynez - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is as complete a biography as there can be about a peculiar character. The author takes advantage of his friendship with Wilfred Owen's brother Harold, to get access to family documents and memories indispensable to get to know his subject better. The tone of the biography is balanced, objective and critical: it is not an elegy nor an attack.
Now, Wilfred Owen is one of the best poets of WWI, and his carrer is interesting and, above all, intriguing. Up until he's 20 or so, he's not a very likable character. His mother was a prudish Calvinist, tyranical and at times over-protecting, but she also supported Wilfred at every stage, especially in his early ambitions to be a great poet.
The interesting change is the one Wilfred experiences after he decides to volunteer for the Army. He changes, from being a pretentious, pompous and picky young man, to a courageous, strong, enduring leader. This change is best reflected in his attitude towards war itself: at first, he sees war as a glorious thing, a wonderful place to show grandiosity. Then, after bitter experiences, he realizes that war is not wonderful, but horrible, cruel, unjust. So the tone of his poetry changes from epic to lyrical. The interesting thing is that he is against war and its continuation, but in the meantime behaves bravely and disciplined in battle.
Another good thing about this book is its ability to capture the way of life, places, activities and feelings of that era.
This is, then, a book of interest for lovers of poetry and people who like to read about WWI.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Excellent if flawed bio 22 April 2007
By rlanyon42 - Published on
Format: Paperback
Anyone who loves Owen will want to read this biography; it's well-written and engaging and the section devoted to his wartime service is particularly strong. However...there is a refusal by Stallworthy to confront the reality of Owen's sexual nature -- possibly out of respect for Harold Owen, the poet's brother, who provided insights, anecdotes and documents of great value to Stallworthy. Unfortunately Stallworthy must tie himself in knots to avoid labeling Owen homosexual while at the same time citing lines in which Owen makes his physical and romantic desire for men, and the guilt this caused him, quite clear (and the reader is left with the strong impression that Stallworthy knows the score but doesn't feel he can present it honestly). A more recent biography of Owen, by Dominic Hibberd, deals frankly with this critical facet of the poet's nature (which had immense impact on his art and his life in the trenches), as well as being a very well-researched and well-written work all around. If an individual were to read only one biography of Wilfred Owen, I would therefore recommend that he or she choose Hibberd's version. But for anyone who truly loves and admires Owen, Stallworthy's study is highly recommended --Stallworthy provides a fascinating if incomplete picture of the poet; I would suggest reading this first and then moving on to Hibberd.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A necessary read 18 Nov 2013
By Philip Corsano - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Great book. I heard so many of these stories, from my maternal grandfather, about the trenches in WWI. The poems of Wilfred Owen burst the bubble of the glory of war. So many young men signed up so enthusiastically for World War One. Only to have their ideas of glory burst.

Every generation must read Owen, to learn of the folly of "seeking the bubble reputation, even in the cannons mouth".
Ultimate futility 29 Aug 2014
By Thomas W. Greene - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One completes this book full of remorse for the enormous waste of life as it flowered in WWI. Wilfred Owen was a poet whose talent was recognized late in his young life by the then living giants of English literature. Siegfried Sassoon was one of these and his own wartime experiences left him with a profound pacifist outlook. That Owen was killed so near the armistice only added to this tragedy.
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