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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to be back in print!
I first read this book when it was published as 'Middles Parts of Fortune', one of the few unexpurgated versions to appear with Manning named as author.
This novel fictionalises Manning's own war experiences. Although highly literate, he served throughout as a private. The book thus offers us a very rare insight into the Great War through the eyes of one of the...
Published on 20 April 2001

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3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I expected
Originally from Australia, Frederic Manning settled in the UK in 1903, and when war broke out in 1914 he enlisted in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry as Private 19022. He saw action at the Somme, experiencing at first hand life in the trenches, and in 1929 published The Middle Part of Fortune, the book that grew out of his wartime experience. This book we now...
Published 1 month ago by Amanda Jenkinson


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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to be back in print!, 20 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Her Privates We (Paperback)
I first read this book when it was published as 'Middles Parts of Fortune', one of the few unexpurgated versions to appear with Manning named as author.
This novel fictionalises Manning's own war experiences. Although highly literate, he served throughout as a private. The book thus offers us a very rare insight into the Great War through the eyes of one of the otherwise silent but multitudinous 'other ranks'. Other contemporary accounts of the war were written by junior officers, but their experiences would have necessarily been very different from those of their men. Indeed, part of Manning's gift is that he offers us a view of these officers as seen by those who served under them.
What makes Manning's book so very memorable is that he deals with companionship rather than battles. The book starts with the protagonists coming back down the line from battle, and ends with them going back over the top. In between, he recreates the comradeship experienced by a group of men who were having to survive in a surreal world where the reason for their being there was beyond their comprehension.
In my view, this is the best book to have come out of the Great War. Now it's back in print, there is no excuse for anyone not to read it!
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, 22 April 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Her Privates We (Paperback)
Well. I wanted to know what it was like in the trenches that my grandfathers, as ordinary rank and file, fought. And so, this is it. Boredom, comradeship, bad language, and occasional harsh brutality. If you want to know what they experienced, then I'm pretty sure this is the book. Indeed, I can truly say that whilst reading this I felt physically sick at times, because it was so graphic and well told.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging story of companionship during the great war., 15 Dec 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Her Privates We (Paperback)
Probably the best novel to come out of WWI, Manning includes some well thought out analysis of the effects of a battle situation on men and on groups of men.
Besides his asides on the inevitiblity but also the futiltiy of war; we are treated to a very touching story of companionship under times of great stress. Much of the action takes place behind the lines in the bars and restaurants of the Somme region. Bourne, knows he is different and better educated etc. and is comfortable with officer and soldier class alike. He is soon pressured into going for a comission and although not overly keen, he sees that it is inevitable. He decides to go over the top one more time before being sent back for officer training.
A thoroughly good read, I can honestly reccomend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All peace is happy (in a very relative sense)..., 5 Mar 2012
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Her Privates We (Paperback)
... each war is unhappy (by contrast) in its own way. With apologies for roughly paraphrasing, and utilizing Tolstoy's first sentence in Anna Karenina (Penguin Classics).

Frederic Manning was an Australian who saw action on the Western Front, with the British Army, during World War I. He enlisted, and served as a private, in the trenches, along the Somme sector. He missed the day of ultimate devastation for the British Army, July 1, 1916; on that date approximately 20,000 British soldiers were killed, 35,000 were wounded. Manning spent four months in this sector, in the autumn of 1916. This novel is heavily based upon his experience; to use an expression from a later war, it is a "grunts-eye" view of war, one of the unhappier ones in terms of utter carnage. Manning probably had some "personal problems" prior to the war; as is so often the case, they were only exacerbated by the war, and he heavily relied on the "medicine" that is alcohol to "help him get through the night." The "catharsis" of writing this book was not sufficient. He died at age 52.

Manning loved his Shakespeare. Each chapter commences with an epigraph from The Bard. The title is a quote from Hamlet (Classics Illustrated), from a dialog, I had long forgotten, between Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It refers to the ultimate arbitrator in war: Fortune, which Hamlet calls a strumpet. And in her private parts is where R & G dwell, as well as soldiers in the Somme sector.

World War I was the end of an era which spanned numerous millenniums in terms of how wars were fought. From the battles between the ancient Greeks and the Persians, through the Roman Empire, up through the American Civil War, wars had overwhelmingly been conducted by having groups of men on opposing sides, charge each other, and fight, uptight, and personal. After WWI, "death at a distance" through aerial bombing and artillery, became much more the norm. Manning depicts the "over the top" charges of the infantry, and the small unit combat.

But the greater portion of the book is not about actual combat. It concerns the living arrangements of the men along the front, the friendships that are established, and the views of the privates towards the military hierarchy. It is the lice, and the rats, as well as the weather. French civilians continued to live near this very active battlefield, and the soldier's interactions are described. It was possible, apparently, for the soldiers who were not in the front-line trenches to go to the equivalent of a local, low-class pub. One of Manning's quips is that the French beer is so bad that it is enough to make you pro-German! There are the distinctions between the enlisted men and the conscripts which I noted a half century later. Manning can be more than sardonic towards what we called the REMF's (which must remain as initials for those with "sensitivities"): "You can't put eight hundred fighting men into the line, without having another eight hundred useless parasites behind them pinching the stores" (p.191). Manning seemed to get so much right, that transcends the particularities of WWI. In terms of the wounded: "...but he had vanished completely, so completely that Bourne did not even expect to hear from him again. Men passed out of sight like that, and seemed to leave very little trace. Their term had been completed."

William Boyd, in his introduction, discusses how this is the "unexpurgated version." When it was first published, in 1929, it was seriously "bowdlerized," for the above mentioned "sensitivities." It reminded me of the person who had written into Life Magazine, after they had published pictures of the My Lai massacre, criticizing the magazine for publishing a photo that included the bare bottom of an infant who had been killed. The letter writer was a metaphorical descendant of those whose primary concerns were about "bad language" in describing one of the ultimate horrors of the last century. I had to chuckle when Boyd stated that T.E. Lawrence "claimed" that he had read the book three times within six weeks of its publication. Boyd was wise enough to use the term "claimed" for someone famous for his elasticity with the truth.

This was Manning's one great book. One of the best written by a British author on WWI. For the quintessential book on this war, I still believe it came from the other side, Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. More succinct, and more comprehensive, at the same time. The denouement to both novels is the same, however. 5-stars for Manning's stellar effort.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Her Privates We, 11 Dec 2008
By 
Mr. D. L. Murphy (Bath) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Her Privates We (Paperback)
I have only read this book in it's censored version, and it is still one of the best books written about the the Great War. It is moving and uncompromising and gives a fascinating insight into life as a private in the trenches. Now it is back in print, definitely buy it. Up until recently it has been very difficult to get hold of. While you're at it, buy 'All Quiet on The Western Front' as an interesting view from the other side.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Insight Into A Private's WWI, 7 Mar 2007
By 
This review is from: Her Privates We (Paperback)
An excellent book, very insightful and feeling true to life and surprisingly modern. It probably does more than any other book to convey the comradeship, boredom, vices, unease and terror of war. There is also a dark humour running through it - stories away from the front and regarding the work and systems the army operated at the time. The officer class is seen from a private's eyes - and it seems quite fair.

Fate, superstition and traditions play their part, but fatalism overrides everything.

Armies make war, people die and this book brings them to life brilliantly
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel so close to reality, 6 Oct 2012
By 
Mr. J. R. Orves "JRO" (Shropshire UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Her Privates We (Paperback)
I came across Her Privates We by Frederic Manning when I was doing some research in my family tree. The reviews I read were that it gave a realistic view of a soldiers life in WWI. The main character was in the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry which was the same regiment as my Great Uncle who died in the war. The book lived up to its good reviews, the best praise I can give is that once I had finished it I started to re-read it almost immediately. As one of the previous reviews states, the reader is shown how mundane life was. It shows how relationships developed between soldiers develop from very different backgrounds. The most startling bit was finding out after I had read it, that the first chapter describes the action in which my Great Uncle died... very sobering, making me look at the book in an entirely different way. I thoroughly recommend it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, 8 Jan 2009
This review is from: Her Privates We (Paperback)
Yes it is a novel, as is 'All quiet on the western front', but it gives a great sense of what it was like for the ordinary soldiers. Most WWI memoirs were written by officers, and that gives them a very different point of view. The overall feel is very similar to 'All quiet..', but I find this a better read and I am surprised that it is not more famous than 'All quiet...'.
This book was quoted by a number of Great War veterans as being the best description of what it was like. In contrast, numbers of British veterans openly expressed doubts that Remarque was ever at the front -Wikipedia will give you some clues.
This is an essential read for anybody interested in WWI.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lest We Forget, 10 Nov 2013
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This book was originally published as a private edition in 1929, under the title 'The Middle Parts of Fortune', and then the following year under the title 'Her privates We', which was a bowdlerized version for general publication. Of course things have moved on since 1930 and so we have here the original 1929 text.

Initially Manning was encouraged to write his war memoirs by Peter Davies, but instead he chose the medium of fiction, probably because it did give him a bit more leeway and a better chance to express things. What he produced was a best-seller in its day, and arguably the best thing he ever wrote. It is 1916 at the Somme, and we follow mostly Bourne, a private and his acquaintances, and those he come in contact with. If you are looking for an action packed read though, this isn't it. We first come across the soldiers as they return behind lines to have some rest, and rebuild the fighting strength of their units. And so for us, as readers, the first piece we have on the fighting that the soldiers have just done is when they try to sleep that night, with some not being able to drop off, and others who have, waking with nightmares.

Ultimately because this isn't full of action is why this novel works. We read about the arguments, the boredom of life, the endless parades and drills, as well as the training for the next big push. In the First World War class was still a rigid structure, and to some the actions of Bourne not being an officer, but a private is discomforting, on both sides of the class divide. And when we think of war we always think of battles and action, and overlook that the majority of the time is sheer boredom, waiting to fight, negotiating getting a good bottle of drink, not being able to do what you want, only at certain times, and waiting for communications from home.

This book brings all that to life as well as many other incidents, which really gives this a believable and true quality. Most of us have covered the war in history classes at school, and if like me you have also been lucky enough to visit a mock trench, and that does bring home to a certain extent what the conditions were for our great grandfathers, but this goes beyond that. This brings home the horror of war, the mundaneness of it at times, and the problems caused by weather, lice, etc. This is well worth reading, and would probably make a good choice for book groups as well. At the end of the day though what this really brings to life is the fatalism of the ordinary soldiers, the fact that they are cannon fodder, they know they are, but for numerous reasons still do their duty.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Ok, 24 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Her Privates We (Kindle Edition)
Book club choice. Did not finish as did not find it appealing. Has obvious merit as description of life in trenches in First World War lower ranks. Ordinary everyday life. Would recommend to those interested in this subject. But not for me
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Her Privates We
Her Privates We by Frederic Manning (Paperback - 11 Nov 1999)
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