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William - an Englishman Paperback – 20 Mar 1999


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Product details

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Persephone Books Ltd; New Ed edition (20 Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0953478009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0953478002
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 460,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'terrifically good...a lovely writer, very poignant, evoking the war is what she does as well as anything I've read.' -- Radio 4's 'A Good Read' September 1999 called Cicely Hamilton

From the Publisher

In our view William is one of the greatest novels about war ever written: not the war of the fighting soldier or the woman waiting at home, but the war encountered by Mr and Mrs Everyman wrenched away from their comfortable preoccupations - Socialism, Suffragettism, so gently mocked by Cicely Hamilton - and forced to be part of an almost dream-like horror (because they cannot at first believe what is happening to them). The scene when William and Griselda emerge after three idyllic weeks in a honeymoon cottage in the remote hills of the Belgian Ardennes, and encounter German brutality in a small village, is unforgettable. The book, which won the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize in 1919, is a masterpiece, writen with an immediacy and a grim realism reminiscent of an old-fashioned, flickering newsreel.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lynette Baines VINE VOICE on 26 Feb 2001
Format: Paperback
This novel begins as a gentle satire on the young people of the pre WWI period. The women are obsessed with getting the vote, the men involved in Social Reform. William and Griselda are typical young people of the period, self-absorbed yet trying to make the world a better place. They meet, fall in love, marry, and go to Belgium for their honeymoon. But, it is 1914, and they emerge from their idyll into a world at war, a world which they cannot recognise. All their interest in social conditions hasn't alerted them to the fact that Europe was moving towards war, and they are as bewildered as if they had been transported to another planet. This is the point at which the novel changes from a light satire to something far more profound and moving. William's gradual realisation of what has happened and his response to his new world is completely believable. This is not the war of Owen, Graves or Sassoon. Cicely Hamilton wrote the book in 1918 when her own experience of war service in France was still vivid and immediate. It won the Prix Femina in 1919 and was then unjustly forgotten until Persephone's reprint. Maybe the realism and the lack of conventional "heroism" has something to do with this. It deserves to be read and admired as a novel about the response of an ordinary young man in extraordinary circumstances.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Roberts on 16 Jan 2006
Format: Paperback
The fascinating tale of a young man thrust from a highly sheltered existence into the 'real' world; a place of death, destruction and human cruelty - in other words: World War I. William's naive convictions, fostered by keen involvement in pacifist groups, are shattered when he and his recent wife find themselves face to face with a German firing squad while honeymooning in France. Like the other Persephone books I've read, this one deals with gut wrenching emotion in a smooth manner, that is, through a story interesting and easy to read. Hightly recommended - real insight into that time period.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By booksetc on 30 Mar 2009
Format: Paperback
Cicely Hamilton wrote this book in 1918, probably writing in a khaki tent having spent the past four years in war service in France. So no wonder she writes so vividly of the emotions of war. William is an insurance clerk, a little Pooter who in the run-up to the war has taken up pacifism and radical Socialism. His bride to be Griselda is an excitable Suffragette. They are ignorant, suburban, caught up in the small-minded cut and thrust of petty political scuffles ... and at this point in the novel, Cicely Hamilton made me laugh out loud with her dry witticisms. But when the young couple spend their August 1914 honeymoon secluded, and rather bored, in the Ardennes they have no idea what is happening in the wider world. The humour of the beginning gives way to horror as this commonplace pair of young innocents are tragically caught up in the unfolding war. Fascinating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. Titusson on 29 July 2004
Format: Paperback
I came across this book by chance - and it proved to be one of the best reads in a long,long time. It is the story of William, a socialist clerk, and Griselda, a suffragette, during WW1. They are two ordinary, naive youngsters that unexpectedly find themselves in the middle of war. Apart from telling a page-turning story, the book successfully deals with the conflict between idealism and reality - a theme more than relevant for today's readers.
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By J. R. Attar on 4 Nov 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Best novel on WWI I know.
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