2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Readable and Refreshing New Biography,
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This review is from: Wilfred Owen (Hardcover)
One might have thought that enough had been written about Wilfred Owen, but Guy Cuthbertson shows an approach that is refreshing and original. His style is witty and amusing without demeaning his subject at all. I liked the way in which he follows certain themes that affected Owen's life and character, drawn from known facts: social background and class, his mother's influence, his sexuality, religion and education. Cuthbertson shows how much Owen believed he had missed out by not attending university, instead taking a post as assistant to a Thames Valley clergyman. He also contrasts the poetry with its strong judgments on war with other views expressed in letters in which he shows an almost childlike belief in gallantry. In fact, the author demonstrates what a man of many contradictions Owen was and not the simple unified character many have found in the poetry.
I liked the expansive way in which Cuthbertson detailed Owen's background, both family and geography, and discusses how these affected him. Others may have done this to a degree but this author has delved deeper and further. While some may find this insufficiently close to Owen, I found it useful and informative for instance to be able to picture what Bordeaux was like in 1914, how its prosperous middle class and visitors lived, the Catholicism of the place, in what unfamiliar milieu he found himself and how this affected his development.
There seems to be a tendency for people of one sexual orientation or another to claim Owen as their own. Cuthbertson avoids this, and makes it clear that with the limited factual knowledge available the jury has to be undecided on this matter- a 'not proven' verdict. With cleverly extracted quotations from letters the author also shows the degree to which Owen's class and sensitivity to class affected his life, work and soldiering.
This book is full of useful, interesting material and is easy to read- highly recommended.