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4.1 out of 5 stars7
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 22 June 2014
From the blurb and the cover photograph, you might think that this is a novel about the Western Front in the Great War. Well, the last part of the book is, but there are 200 pages to get through before the "hero" of the title even signs up. So unlike the "Goodbye to all that"s and "Middle parts of fortune"s, you do rather have to wade through a lot of backstory about George Winterbourne and his parents and grandparents before arriving at the front. Which is not to say that the description of Winterbourne's experiences and disintegration in the trenches isn't powerful, if incessantly bleak. Aldington was clearly left thinking, in the words of the poem at the end of the book, "how useless it all was." The omission of certain passages and words on the grounds of taste and the cleaning up of the language could surely have been rectified by now. Interesting to read once but I shan't be returning to this as I do to other Great War novels.
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on 13 July 2014
I was looking up something in the dictionary and came across this author's name. Better known as a poet, he wrote a novel about World War I as well as a controversial biography of Lawrence of Arabia. As, against all odds, there was a copy of one in the local library, I decided to try it, imagining it might be a little like Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End.

I'm all for healthy cynicism but this book takes the biscuit. In fact, it might actually take a whole Peek Freans factory as far as biscuits go. The author/narrator seems to despise almost everyone and casts his superior and judgmental eye on them. No one is immune from his contemptuous derision. Roman Catholics are described as `slimy', for instance.

The really objectionable aspect is the unremitting misogyny. Everyone might be a target for Aldington's scorn and disdain, but the majority of it is reserved for the female of the species. He characterises the hero's (George Winterbourne) two lovers, Elizabeth and Fanny, as caring more about how smart his uniform is than if he lives or dies.

He imagines that George's mother finds the news of his demise erotic and immediately tries to galvanise the latest in her long line of lovers into bed. Any grief she evinces is shown to be insincere. We are informed that nine times out of ten the woman seduces the man.

He constantly imputes base motives to his female characters, insinuating that they are slaves to their instincts and incapable of acting honourably. They are calculating schemers, plotting men's overthrow and domination, displaying `the admirable dissimulation which comes so naturally to women'.

Not like the men - `what they had saved was immensely important - manhood and comradeship, their essential integrity as men, their essential brotherhood as men'.

The writing about the trenches is better because at least the poor benighted mothers, wives and girlfriends don't feature as much, thus attracting less condemnation.

But it's still present. Even when he's just acknowledged that the soldiers are coarsened and overrun with lice, George `hated the thought of these men giving their lean, sinewy bodies to the miserable French whores'. No sympathy for the whores though.

I thought the introduction might put the book in its context and do something to justify its extreme sentiments but it only classifies it as antiwar. It is much more definitively anti-women and I think the sheer scale of this unbridled and vituperative assault on the fairer sex is why it is so little known.
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on 16 March 2013
I suppose there will be a huge 'WWI' industry next August (2014).
This is probably the best of the 'forgotten' novels of that war. Right up with 'Parade's End'. A few days before the end of the war, a man stands up and is mown down by a German machine gun in an otherwise quiet sector. What would lead a man to do this? What in this made him a 'hero? A fascinating exploration of duty and the 'ragtime' sexual revolution as it played out in the first world war. Aldington was a friend (and biographer) of DH lawrence, and editor of Ford Madox Ford, but reads better than either. I first read it years ago and bought it as a present. It hasn't lost its appeal.
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on 26 April 2016
An excellent and surprisingly amusing novel, not as one dimensional as the cover may lead you to believe.
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on 20 August 2014
brilliant. glad to have it on my shelves.
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on 10 February 2016
Fantastic book , product. Great writer
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on 21 October 2015
Good product,nothing to say concerning the quality of the book and the sending.
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